A considerable number of posts for physicians at various hospitals lie vacant. People who depend on upazila health complexes in remote areas are suffering seriously. Initiative was taken to fill the vacant posts through a special BCS (Bangladesh Civil Service) exam. It had been decided to recruit 10,000 physicians in two phases. The 39th BCS examination was arranged to recruit 4,542 physicians and 250 dentists. The Public Service Commission published a circular on 9 April 2018.
The primary qualifications for physicians and dentists are MBBS and BDS degrees respectively. A total of 39,954 candidates applied. After a preliminary test of 200 marks, 13,219 candidates were called for viva voce. This oral exam was completed several days ago. It is expected that the recommendations will be sent to the government very soon for recruitment.
A month ago, certain quarters in the government said 5000 physicians would be recruited in two months. But this is going through a lengthy procedure. Health services will improve once the recruitment is done. And unemployed doctors will also be employed.
Recruitment will be delayed if special measures are not taken to complete the recruitment. The main objective of this special BCS exam will be thwarted. For the last couple of years after recommendations by the PSC, it took about a year for medical and background reports. This can be done within a short time and much has been written about the matter, but to no avail. Things are proceeding as usual.
Around 1,500 jobs seekers including different cadres are recommended for recruitment. If it takes so much time to finalise, one can only imagine how much longer it will take to recruit 5000 physicians in a similar manner.
After the BCS preliminary examination, if double the number of candidates against the vacant posts were called for viva voce, the number would stand at 9500. The viva voce then could be completed two months earlier. The recommendation could be sent to the government. May be they thought that the government will increase the number of vacant posts. The government could do that. It would not be inconsistent as there are vacancies and qualified candidates as well. All vacant posts are not going to be filled up from this special BCS due to complexities in the rules. So it will be necessary to arrange such a special BCS examination once again.
It is hoped that those who will be recommended will be recruited soon. There are government medical colleges and specialised hospitals. It is possible to complete medical test within four weeks. Certainly there will be pressure as in the past. Earlier, the Special Branch (SB) of police carried out the background reports. Now the deputy commissioners do it. In some cases, intelligence agencies are also assigned. The area of investigation has been widened without sufficient logistics. Earlier, it was checked whether the candidate was involved in anti-state activities or convicted in any criminal case. Now it is also seen whether candidates or their relatives are involved in any anti-government organisations. This is a disqualification. That is very unfortunate. We have mixed up the state and the government.
Such investigation cannot be fully carried out transparently. Influence from the local level is another factor. Around seven to eight per cent are dropped from each BCS after the final recommendation. This should not happen. The candidate involved in any organisation banned by the government or guilty or punished in criminal offence can be dropped. There is nothing wrong with that. But after the autocratic regime was toppled, there has been strong politicisation during the democratic governments. There is no respite from it. It has taken on an institutional shape.
An adequate number of posts for physicians have not been created. If this was done, more physicians could be recruited from this BCS. Our government system is also responsible for such mismanagement. Hospitals and health complexes are built according to development projects to provide health services to the people. But these complexes need physicians and nurses. Furniture and equipment are needed. An organogram approved by the administrative ministry is needed. There are also approvals required from the finance division, the public administration ministry and the secretary committee on administrative development. These approvals cannot be ignored.
However, the organograms of a number of health centres can be approved speedily. The size of manpower is more or less similar when it comes to the number of hospital beds, but it should not take too much time to approve the organogram for a new 50-bed hospital or a 100-bed hospital or to turn a 100 bed hospital into 250 bed one. There is no necessity to go though too much bureaucratic procedures for all this. But that is what is happening unfortunately. It is not the politicians who are responsible for this. The employees of the state are responsible. They could take positive steps to avoid the delay.
It is often alleged that manpower for 100-bed hospitals are approved for 250-bed hospitals. As a result, health services are hampered. Hard-earned MBBS and BDS degree holding youth remain unemployed or semi-employed. Some start working at private hospitals and clinics wit low salaries. Though there are vacant, around 2000 to 3000 physicians could not be recruited through the 39th BCS as the posts are not approved. It is hoped that things will completed expeditiously.
Coming back to the issue of the 39th BCS, the physicians who will be recommended will also require background reports to get the government jobs. They will also require medical reports. Perhaps this can be speeded up, but of the process for issuing character certificates follows the present method, this will take an inordinately long time. Much has been written about this too, but with no result. The only way out is to make the appointments on condition of receiving the reports. There have been such provisions in the past. If anyone is given a bad report, he or she may lose their job. But the reports must be about the candidate and in the interests of the state.
*Ali Imam Majumder is former cabinet secretary. He can be contacted at email@example.com. This piece appeared in Bangla in the print version of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten here in English by Rabiul Islam