Bangladesh hospitals struggle as postgraduate and intern doctors continue strike

According to the director of Suhrawardy Hospital, the absence of so many doctors has made it difficult to perform day-to-day activities in the hospital

Senior Correspondent
Published : 25 March 2024, 10:36 AM
Updated : 25 March 2024, 10:36 AM

Several hospitals across Bangladesh are struggling to perform their day-to-day activities as the Postgraduate Private Trainee Doctors Association and Intern Doctors Council continue to strike over back pay and an increase in allowance.

Hospitals, including the capital's Shaheed Suhrawardy Medical College Hospital, are cutting back on surgeries due to insufficient manpower.

On Monday, several patients were suffering at the Suhrawardy Hospital as no doctors were present at the operation theatre or the paediatric outpatient clinic.

A hospital nurse, who wished to remain anonymous, told, "We have not performed a single surgery in the operation theatre since yesterday. They are not sending in patients from the outdoor clinic either."

While expressing his anger over the situation, an intern doctor at the hospital said, "How are we going to do our jobs if we have to worry about our expenses for food, diapers, and rent? We only get Tk 15,000 as ubterbs. What will we do with such little money? A lot of interns have to take care of their families too."

As many as 50 interns and 30 postgraduate trainees work in four shifts at Suhrawardy Hospital's gynaecology department. However, none of them showed up to work on Monday morning due to the strike.

The hospital's director, Dr Shariful Islam, told, "With so many doctors absent, it has become difficult to carry out daily activities."

"The interns receive the patients, and our postgraduate trainees are the main workforce who treat them. If 200 doctors don't come to work, there will be an impact."

The Postgraduate Private Trainee Doctors Association and Intern Doctors Council launched a strike across Bangladesh over demands that the authorities raise their salaries and clear back pay.

After their demonstration in Dhaka on Saturday, Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen said the government would look into their demands in a meeting on Sunday.

However, the health minister failed to specify a date for the settlement of the issues they raised after Sunday's meeting, forcing the striking doctors to call for action, said Jabir Hossain, president of the trainee doctors association.

"The minister said he would raise the issues with the upper level of the government and that he would try to solve the problem by discussing it with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But he could not specify any date. We later decided to stop performing our duties," Jabir said.

According to a resident doctor of Dhaka Medical College Hospital's emergency unit, Dr Md Ala Uddin, the strike has not impacted the hospital's functionality.

"All our government residents are here. As a result, the workflow is consistent, and we are not sending back any patients."

A resident doctor of Mymensingh Medical College Hospital's paediatric surgery unit, Dr Kamrul Hasan, told "We have nine doctors including interns and postgraduate trainees in this unit. Aside for two, the rest did not show up at work due to the strike."

"We are in deep trouble here. We cannot continue perform our daily work other than urgent surgeries," he added.

According to a doctor at Rajshahi Medical College Hospital who wished to remain anonymous, the workload of mid-level and lower-level doctors has increased due to the absence of intern doctors and postgraduate trainees.

On Sunday, Health Minister Samanta Lal Sen told "I have been a minister for only two months. I don't know what happened a year ago. I have asked them to give me some time to investigate the matter. I am currently busy due to the arrival of the king of Bhutan. I will work on the matter soon and also speak to the prime minister about it."

Public and autonomous hospitals have around 8,000 postgraduate trainees and 4,000 interns.

The protesters have asked the authorities to increase the salary of intern doctors to Tk 30,000 and the salary of postgraduate private trainee doctors to Tk 50,000. They also demanded that the due bills of FCPS, as well as resident and non-resident doctors, be cleared.

According to the protesters, trainee doctors have been deprived of their allowances for the last nine months.

Private medical organisations have stopped providing allowances to resident and diploma trainees, said Jabir.

The trainee doctors have also demanded that allowances for resident and non-resident doctors in 12 private institutes under Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University be reintroduced and the Doctors Protection Act be implemented after it is passed in parliament.