Parliament to Discuss Policy Reform Affecting Public Health Workers

By Tin Htet Paing 7 June 2017

RANGOON — Burma’s Lower House of Parliament agreed on Wednesday to discuss a proposal urging the Union government to reform policies affecting nurses and midwives serving in public hospitals.

The proposal was submitted by lawmaker Daw Yin Min Hlaing of Magwe Division’s Gangaw Township. She took the floor of the Parliament, highlighting how the role of nursing remains crucial to public health and that re-examining the policies that directly affect nurses would thereby improve the country’s health sector.

She pointed to low salaries, long hours, and a challenging work environment as factors contributing to nurses and midwives leaving the government health service and the resulting shortage of such staff in these medical facilities.

A nurse employed at a public hospital earns a base salary of 165,000 kyats ($121) per month, according to the Nursing University Students’ Union (NUSU). The health ministry estimated that one in every four graduate nurses pays a fine in order to get out of required public service duties. They often then go on to work at private hospitals.

“With limited resources of nurses [at government hospitals], existing ones could not provide patients with sufficient care and are facing complaints and accusations of service failure,” Daw Yin Min Hlaing said.

Stressing that nurses are being under-appreciated, she said, “No matter how qualified a nurse is, he or she cannot get promoted to higher position without completing specified years of service,” suggesting that promotion should only be considered upon one’s qualification.

Dr. Myint Han, a director-general at the Ministry of Health and Sport’s department of medical services, said in March that the required workforce for more than 1,000 public hospitals across the country is a minimum of 37,000 nurses. Yet nearly 43 percent of the required workforce is vacant, with only about 20,000 nurses serving in government facilities.

According to the statistics Daw Yin Min Hlaing presented to the Parliament, the general hospital in Rangoon—the country’s most populous city—has only around 650 nurses; the required workforce is estimated to be 1,200.

The parliamentary proposal came three months after students from Rangoon’s University of Nursing held a protest in March, demanding reforms to policies that they said were unfair to nurses and midwives.

The primary goal of the protest was to stand against the ministry’s practice of delayed licensing—issuing nursing and midwifery licenses to graduates only after the completion of three years of public service at government hospitals. Students had later reached an agreement with the ministry regarding licensing matter.

Students also demanded that the ministry to carry out professional surveys to identify the root causes of nurses’ dissatisfaction and explore pragmatic solutions to the shortage of nurses in public hospitals.

Lawmakers are expected to discuss the proposal next week.