Despite the government’s promise, physicians, nurses and medical workers have not received any stimulus for working round the clock to treat COVID-19 patients. The concerned ministry and department have simply been exchanging letters about this for the past six months. Nobody has any idea about when these people will receive the funds.
The government made a decision to give stimulus to people associated with medical services on 1 July. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on 7 April announced at a video conference that the government has decided to give allowance to the people in the medical sector fighting against coronavirus since March. Moreover, there would be health insurance of Tk 500,000 to Tk 1 million for those who would be affected while on duty. The insurance will amount to five times higher if anyone dies of coronavirus while performing duties.
In this regard, a letter has been sent to the Ministry of Finance from the Ministry of Health recently asking for allocation. It directed to pay every physician Tk 2,000 daily for 15 days a month, to nurses Tk 1,200 and to other health workers Tk 800. Outside Dhaka, physicians will get Tk 1,800, nurses Tk 1,000 and other health workers Tk 650 respectively. However, physicians, nurses and health workers who have availed housing benefits from the government will not get this stimulus. According to health rules, the physicians, nurses and other health workers who have given 15 days medical treatment to coronavirus patients at a stretch, should be in quarantine for the next 15 days.
An official of the health ministry said if the finance ministry approves, the concerned persons will get the stimulus benefits. According to the health ministry, the number of physicians engaged in coronavirus treatment is 5,726, nurses 10,044 and other health workers 8,515. It will cost the government Tk 395 million a month to pay allowances to all of them. However, the letter did not mention how many of the physicians will get this allowance.
In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, physicians, nurses and other health workers were provided with hotel accommodation and meals at government expense for health protection. There was a lot of fuss about the unusual cost of hotel rent and food. The government later cancelled their hotel stay.
The government has recognised physicians, nurses and other health workers serving COVID-19 patients as warriors. Appropriate financial assistance has also been announced for the families of health workers affected and dead in COVID-19. The people concerned have also received that help. According to the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), 2,876 physicians, 1,973 nurses and 3,276 other health workers were infected while treating coronavirus patients. So far 108 physicians have died in COVID-19.
But why don't the persons engaged in medical services get stimulus as promised by the government? Physicians say they did not seek stimulus from the government. The government had voluntarily announced it. Unnecessary delays or bureaucratic complications are disrespectful to them.
The promise of the PM should be implemented immediately to encourage the physicians, nurses and other health workers treating coronavirus, risking their lives.