Vol. 4 Num 213 Wed. December 31, 2003  
Front Page

80,000 health workers not paid for 4 months

About 80,000 fieldworkers under the family planning wing of the health ministry have not received their salaries for the last four months.

Sources said the failure of the ministry's planning wing to process the relevant documents in time has led to the non-payment of salaries of these employees working under the development budget.

They pointed out that it is a routine practice to have the annual operation plans (OPs) under the Health and Population Sector Programme (HPSP) for the following year approved by the National Steering Committee (NSC) of the ministry by June every year.

But the planning wing sent the relevant papers to the NSC in September this year for approval of 15 OPs out of 28. Its failure to do the job timely not only caused the non-payment of salaries since August but also delayed procurement of drugs, contraceptives, vaccines and essential surgical kits in hospitals.

The mismanagement has also created uncertainty about the scheduled National Immunisation Day (NID) programmes on January 14. Funds are still not available for payment of about Tk 6 crore to about 60,000 volunteers and porters to be engaged in the drive.

Heads of a number of hospitals in the capital told The Daily Star they have very small stocks of medicines and surgical requisites.

Most hospitals including Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH), National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD), National Institute of Trauma and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR) and Shaheed Suhrawardi Hospital have already asked the Central Medical Store Depot (CMSD) for immediate supply of foreign drugs and surgical requisites.

"We need emergency supply of drugs and other apparatus by January," said the director of one hospital.

The CMSD sources however said quick supply of foreign drugs to the hospitals will not be possible. "We have to abide by strict rules and the process is often very lengthy. The time needed for procurement of foreign drugs is at least up to February," said an official of the CMSD.

It is learnt that Line Director of Essential Service Packages (ESP) Dr Mahbubur Rahman sent several reminders to the ministry to release funds but is yet get any response.

Due to fund shortage, recurrent expenditures like telephone, petrol and gas bills have also not been paid since July.

About the fund shortage, Health Secretary A F M Sarwar Kamal said, "We have had Tk 578 crore and most of it was released for procurement of essentials and we will soon have required drug supply."

About the non-payment of salaries, he said because of a writ the establishment ministry hesitated to release the funds for salaries. "But the legal matter has been resolved and we hope to pay up the salaries within two weeks," he added.

Sources said the fund shortage has not however affected foreign trips of officials of the health ministry and health directorate. About 250 officials have already visited Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and some other countries reportedly for in-service training, spending about Tk 11 crore.

The health directorate said the funds for the trips were released much earlier and had nothing to do with the OPs.