Nurses likely to stay on as Thai government backs down

Nurses last month renewed their five-year-old campaign to win status and pay as official civil servants. The government partially relented on Tuesday. (Bangkok Post file photo)

A network of nurses who work under temporary contracts backpedalled Wednesday on their threat to resign en masse in September after the government promised to upgrade the status of nearly 11,000 of them to permanent civil servants over the next three years.

Rungthiwa Phanomkae, president of the Contract Nurses’ Network, said she believed the nurses will no longer resign in protest as this week’s concession has boosted their morale.

Read – 10,000 Thai nurses on verge of quitting over government attitude

The cabinet’s resolution was relayed to the nurses and other parties Wednesday at a nationwide teleconference conducted by the Public Health Ministry.

It agreed to create 8,792 new civil servant positions for nurses within three years so workers now on temporary contracts can enjoy improved status and improved benefits.

More than 10,000 nurses at hospitals and health units across the nation have asked for the upgrade. They previously threatened to quit at the end of the 2017 fiscal year in protest against a cabinet decision on May 9 which effectively rejected their request.

Sopon Mekthon, permanent secretary to the Public Health Ministry, said the ministry sought approval at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting for the creation of 10,992 new civil servant positions for nurses.

The cabinet agreed in principle but deducted the ministry’s 2,200 current vacancies from the total, he said.

The 8,792 newly approved positions will be divided into 2,930 to be filled this year, and 2,931 in each of the following two years, Dr Sopon said.

Taking into account the 755 positions that will become vacant later this year, a total of 5,885 civil servant positions will be filled by contract nurses this year, he said.

Factoring in the retirees takes the corresponding number for 2018 to 3,746, and 3,955 in 2019, he said. About 815 civil servant nurses are due to retire next year and 1,024 the year after.

The positions will be allocated based on need. For example, hospitals and health care units in rural areas where nurses are in short supply will take priority, Dr Sopon said.

Nurses who are unwilling to work in rural areas will drop to the bottom of the waiting list and their status upgrades will be deferred for later consideration, he added.

He said a total of 13,603 nurses are awaiting the upgrade so this week’s decision will take care of the vast majority.

From 2021, 3,000 to 4,000 new nursing graduates are expected to enter the system each year, meaning there should be enough civil servants retiring to create vacancies for them to step into, Dr Sopon said.

The cabinet has also ordered that a new committee be set up to study the need for health care personnel on a broader scale across the nation. The results will help the ministry plan its workforce over the next 20 years, Dr Sopon said.

-Bangkok Post

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