According to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) sources, the families of six doctors who died on the frontlines have so far been compensated
In August, the government after seven months finally dispensed compensation to the first family of a doctor who had died while rendering services at Covid-19 treatment facilities.
According to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) sources, the families of six doctors who died on the frontlines have so far been compensated. The six are among 12 deceased doctors listed for compensation by the DGHS, and the DGHS only included physicians on the list as other directorates (such as the Directorate of Nursing) would send their own lists.
Health Ministry officials said they have sent a list of 46 deceased healthcare professionals to the authorities concerned for compensation, but they could not confirm how many of their families had received it.
Government sources said they are currently only providing compensation to the families of government employees. It is unclear whether healthcare professionals in the private sector will later be given the same facilities.
Healthcare professionals are also growing frustrated as promises of double salaries during the lockdown period are yet to be fulfilled. Leaders of health worker associations said frontline fighters would lose morale if the authorities did not keep their word.
The doctors whose families have so far received compensation are Dr Md Moyeen Uddin, assistant professor of Sylhet MAG Osmani Medical College Hospital; Dr Mahmud Monwar, assistant professor of Cardiology department of NICVD; Dr Muhidul Hasan, emergency medical officer of CMCH; Dr Muhammad Hussain, associate professor the urology department under BSMMU; Dr SM Nur Uddin Abu Al Baqi Rumi, assistant professor at the surgery department of Kushtia medical College Hospital; and Dr Samirul Islam Babu, associate professor of Orthopedic Surgery under CMCH, h.
The families of Dr Moyeen and Defence Secretary Abdullah were the first to get compensation in August last year.
On April 23, a circular on Covid-19 death compensation was issued by the Finance Division. It said the family members of frontline fighters would be eligible for compensation as per their pay scale grade, and employees would be given between Tk5 lakh and Tk10 lakh if they contracted Covid-19.
Sources close to the compensation dispensation process said the release of funds for lower-grade officials is in the process.
When contacted, DGHS Director (Finance) Dr SK Manzur Rahman said the money is being provided from a special fund controlled by the Finance Ministry and that he was unaware how much has been dispensed.
Dr Md Enamul Haque, joint secretary (budget-1,2) and additional in-charge of fund release at the Health Ministry, said the Finance Ministry is responsible for ensuring compensation for healthcare professionals working under it.
“We sent a list of 46 such healthcare professionals to the Finance Ministry, but we cannot confirm how much compensation has been disbursed as they are handling it,” he added.
Sources at the DGHS, the Health Ministry and Finance Ministry said it took a long time to determine the sum of money to be provided to each grade of government officials. Listing the deceased from among different types of frontline professionals is also delaying disbursement of compensation.
When contacted, Finance Division Joint Secretary Mohammad Abu Yusuf, who has been tasked with disbursing the money, declined to disclose the number of the frontline fighters; families who had received compensation.
“I am not authorized to speak with the media on this matter,” he said, advising to contact the secretary of the Division.
The senior secretary of the Finance Division could not be reached by phone despite several attempts.
Other compensation and incentives not in sight
The government in May last year decided to pay two months’ additional salary to medical professionals, including doctors and nurses, who were on the frontlines fighting the Covid-19 outbreak.
A circular in this regard was issued by the Finance Ministry on July 9, but no one has received it yet.
Only healthcare professionals are eligible for the two months’ additional salary, senior government officials said.
Asking to remain anonymous, a doctor at the National Institute of Diseases of the Chest and Hospital (NIDCH) said he has not received incentives yet even though he is eligible for them.
“I don’t know how the system is working. Even if we don't get incentives, we will continue to provide healthcare services as it is our job, but I certainly feel cheated,” he said.
Dr Ehteshamul Haque Chowdhury, secretary general of the Bangladesh Medical Association (BMA), said: “Promised incentives should have been given much earlier, and it can affect healthcare services, especially when the country is experiencing a fresh surge of Covid-19.”
Almas Ali Khan, president of the Bangladesh Medical Technologist Association (BMTA), and Nasimul Haque Imran, president of Bangladesh Basic Graduate Nurses' Society (BBGNS), also said the morale of frontline fighters would be hurt if promises of incentives are not kept.
According to the BMA, a total 133 doctors have died from Covid-19. BBGNS said at least 20 nurses died while on duty at the hospitals, and BMTA said they did not maintain a log.