While many officers of various cadres are promoted in due time, having met all conditions of the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS), most of the physicians of the health cadre are not promoted despite fulfilling the conditions and even with additional qualifications. Most of them are held up at their first promotion.
Many BCS officers of various cadres are promoted from the 9th to the 6th grade (senior scale), while most in the health cadre remain stuck in the 9th grade. There is a discrimination when it comes to promotions in the health sector. Some officers are promoted to the 6th grade while others of the same batch remain in the 9th.
There are even instances of many remaining in the same grade for 26 years as they do not have higher education degrees. In other cadres, such higher education is not a requirement.
Under the health cadre, many physicians are frustrated at this state of promotions. Secretary general of Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), Md Ehteshamul Huq Choudhury told Prothom Alo, “The health cadre officers lag far behind other cadres in various benefits and facilities, including promotions. We have made a lot of efforts in this regard, but to no avail. You cannot expect quality service from the physicians by depriving them.”
Health minister Zahid Maleque refused to comment on the matter. He advised this correspondent to contact the information centre. However, secretary of the health ministry’s department of health services, Md Abdul Mannan, told Prothom Alo, “We do not want any discrimination among the physicians. We are endeavouring to ensure they can perform their duties well. I will look into any allegations of discrimination.”
Disparity with other cadres
According to the BCS promotion rules, a 9th grade cadre officer must fulfill three conditions to be promoted to the 6th grade (senior scale). This is the first promotion of a BCS officer. This requires 5 years in service, satisfactory performance and passing the senior scale examination.
However, many health cadre officers are not being promoted for years despite fulfilling all the requirements. Concerned officers say they are not promoted until the posts above them are vacant.
In the case of the administration, police and other cadres, if the three conditions are met, the promotions are made according to batch.
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar said that the disparities in the health cadres must be eliminated or else the physicians will remain frustrated. This will not do any good
Md Saiful Islam, physician at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BMSSU), said, “More than the financial loss of not being promoted in time, it is a blow to our dignity.”
There are 32,000 officers in the health cadres. Of them, 15,000 are in the 9th grade.
Rangpur Medical College Hospital’s medical officer Toufiq Ahmed joined the 33rd BCS in 2014. He told Prothom Alo that 6,033 physician were appointed in the 33rd BCS. A large section has completed their departmental exams, basic training, completed 5 years in service with satisfactory performance and had passed the senior scale exam. Yet only 39 were promoted to the 6th grade in June, not amounting to even 1 per cent.
The dental surgeons face a worse fate and they hardly see any promotions. There are many who have remained in the 6th grade for 26 years in service. A dental surgeon of the 13th BCS batch, joining service in 1994, said many officers of other cadres joining at the same time, had gone up to the 3rd grade.
He remained in the 9th. He is in the grade as officers of 26 batches junior to him, of the 39th BCS.
Former cabinet secretary Ali Imam Majumdar said that the disparities in the health cadres must be eliminated or else the physicians will remain frustrated. This will not do any good.
A survey of the last few BCS results indicate that many physicians have chosen to go to other cadres rather than health. The officer who stood first in the 36th cadre of the foreign service cadre, had passed the MBBS exam from Sir Salimullah Medical College Hospital. In the last BCS 38th batch, 7 physicians were recommended for appointment to the foreign service cadre. Two them said they opted not to join the health cadre because of slow promotion process.
Disparity in the same cadre
Officers of the health cadre do not need any higher degrees in medical science for promotions in the administrative posts. They are promoted if they pass the senior scale exam. In these posts the officers can go from upazila health officer to civil surgeon, departmental director and occasionally to the post of additional director general.
The physicians have subject-wise promotions which includes clinical, basic, para-clinical subjects. They have to have a higher degree on any one of these subjects as well as pass the senior scale exam. If all the conditions are fulfilled, then a 9th grade medical officer can reach the 6th grade as an assistant professor or junior consultant.
But there is inequity here too. There are officers of the 24th BCS who were appointed in 2005 and have higher degrees, but remain medical officers of the 9th grade. Then again, there are officers of the 33rd BCS joining public service in 2014, and are already assistant professors of the 6th grade.
Promotion is the right of an officer. It is not possible to expect quality service from anyone deprived of this right
Md Lutfur Rahman Azad of the anesthesia department of Sheikh Hasina National Burn and Plastic Surgery Institute, pointed to the list of those promoted to the 6th grade on 28 November last year to the posts of assistant professor. It showed that promotions to the posts of assistant professor in the gynaecology and obstetrics department had come to a halt with the 21st BSC officers appointed in 2003. Similarly, in the departments of medicine, surgery, cardiology, skin and venereal diseases, community medicine and urology, promotions were made up to those of the 25th batch, appointed in 2006. No one after that had become assistant professor.
On the other hand, those of the 30th BSC appointed in 2012 were promoted to the posts of assistant professor in physical medicine and microbiology. This discrepancy emerged because there is no batch-based promotions as in other cadres. This subject-based promotion problem exists in the education cadre too.
Last year 1,200 officers from the 17th to the 33rd BSC of the health cadre fulfilled all three conditions and applied to the health ministry for promotions to the senior scale, that is, the 6th grade. One of them, a physician of Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital’s inpatient department, Nihar Ranjan Das, said their files, after detailed scrutiny, were finally sent to the ministry. There has been no decision as yet.
President of the BSC Health Cadre Association and professor of the forensic department at Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College and Hospital, Selim Reza, told Prothom Alo that all the discriminations lie in the health cadre. Unless these inequities are removed, physicians will lose interest in government jobs.
No promotion even with higher degrees
Officers of other cadres are promoted by batch even when they go for higher studies, but not physicians. They are told they cannot apply for promotion while on lien for higher education.
Farhad Uddin Ahmed, studying for a higher degree at the National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital, said that despite meeting all prerequisites, he does not qualify to apply for a promotion.
Former director of the National Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (NIPSOM), Saroj Kumar Majumdar, told Prothom Alo that in order to address the problem of physicians being deprived of promotions for inordinately long, they should be promoted even when on lien or on training. Promotion is the right of an officer. It is not possible to expect quality service from anyone deprived of this right.
*This report, appearing in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir