Despite challenges, the health ministry assures that it would place female health workers in all BHU II by the end of this month.
It plans to deploy excess female health workers to health units that do not have one. The intention is good since their deployment would ensure convenience to women in accessing health care services.
What could however become problematic is the way the redeployment exercise is being conducted. The ministry asserts that it would not consider marital grounds or their family situation while transferring female health workers. The objective here, it appears is to meet the target set in its annual performance agreement than to enhance health care service delivery to women patients.
This is poor human resource planning. The way the ministry is going about meeting this target shows that it works towards achieving a goal because the prime minister has promised so. For an organisation that suffers from chronic shortage of health workers and struggles to retain professionals, this move to redeploy female health workers does not appear professional.
Section 14.4.14 of the civil service rules states: “if both the spouses are civil servants, their simultaneous transfer to the same location, shall be facilitated, as far as possible.” How the health ministry would respect this provision and keep the prime minister’s promise is yet to be seen. Going by the education ministry’s similar attempt during the last government’s term to transfer senior teachers, impositions, made even in public or political interest, rarely work, let alone succeed.
The health sector and its team of professionals across the country was recognised for its contribution to nation building during the national day celebrations last year. The recognition should motivate health workers at all levels to do better and more. Instead, we see the health ministry and the national referral hospital grappling with human resource issues. Doctors and specialists received much attention lately but that should not come at the cost of the working environment of those central to the functioning of the health sector, the nurses and health assistants.
The health ministry must look beyond the tenure and promises of an elected government. It has a bigger mandate, one prescribed in the Constitution to provide health care services to all. Its leaders must weigh public health benefits more than political benefits before they implement or impose policies.
Basic health units do need female health workers, but they require those who see this need as an opportunity to deliver better health care services. Disgruntled health workers don’t deliver and the health ministry should be able to comprehend this.