Nursing student crisis

Three articles, probably outdated by the time you read them. This is probably the biggest human resources for health crisis of the last several years. It will be fascinating to see how both sides handle themselves. Precedents will be set. Good luck to all.



Health Ministry Stands Firm as Nursing Students Protest Delayed Licensing
Tin Htet Paing
The Irrawaddy
16 March 2017

RANGOON — Policy that requires graduate nurses to serve at public hospitals for three years aims to tackle severe shortage of nurses and midwives at government medical service facilities, the Ministry of Health and Sports said on Thursday.

Several hundred students from Rangoon’s University of Nursing took to the streets on Wednesday protesting against the ministry’s policy of issuing nurse and midwifery licenses to graduates only after completion of the three years of public service, and barring those who fail to complete the requirement from working at private hospitals.

The ministry held a press conference in the capital, Naypyidaw, responding to the demonstration by the nursing students. Permanent secretary Dr. Thet Khaing Win told the press that public hospitals are currently suffering from a significant shortage of human resources, especially nurses and midwives, while trying to implement more free and affordable medical care.

The Department of Medical Services announced on Feb.1 that unlicensed nurses and midwives who had not completed the required three-year government service would not be allowed to work in private hospitals.

The Nursing University Students Union (NUSU) issued a statement on Feb. 27 denouncing the ministry’s announcement. On Mar. 10, the NUSU held a press conference in Rangoon demanding a response from the ministry by Mar. 15.

Dr. Myint Han, a director-general at the ministry’s department of medical services, said that there are only about 20,000 nurses serving at over 1,000 public hospitals across the country, but the required workforce is more than 37,000.

Nearly 43 percent of the required workforce—or more than 15,000 nurses—is vacant, he added.

Until 2015, the state duty requirement for graduate nurses and midwives was only two years of service, and those who opted not to complete the requirement could compensate by paying a fine of 400,000 kyats ($293).

“One of the reasons why there are a lot of vacancies is that fresh graduate nurses from universities and training schools are not willing to serve [at government hospitals],” Dr. Myint Han said, estimating that one in every four graduate nurses does not work in a public hospital and pays a fine to get out of the service duties instead.

Ma Aye Mi San, a class representative for final year students at Rangoon’s nursing university, told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the government should thoroughly identify and review root causes to why so many nurses quit their jobs in government hospitals.

The basic salary of a nurse serving at public hospital is only 165,000 kyats (US$121) per month, Ma Aye Mi San said, implying that there are many reasons behind the shift and that low income is one of the serious issues. She also rejected the accusation by ministry officials that graduate nurses are not willing to serve their state duty requirements.

She stressed that legitimate nursing and midwifery licenses should be given out immediately after graduation so that nurses would have confidence in providing medical care in government hospitals, because they want to have their certification in hand.

“They shouldn’t control and oppress us with licensing issues like this,” she said. “It’s not the right approach or a proper solution.”

According to the Myanmar Nurse and Midwife Council law, anyone who is granted a degree or diploma or certification in nursing or midwifery from local or international institutions must apply to register with the council.

Daw Phyu Phyu, President of the Myanmar Nurse and Midwife Council said at Thursday’s conference that nurses and midwives who are completing the requirement of the three-year state service are not unlicensed, emphasizing that graduates who register with the council are granted registration and a license certification number.



Amid strike threats, ministry pledges to resolve nursing student demands
University of Nursing students assembled during Wednesday's protest in downtown Yangon. (Teza Hlaing | Frontier)
Friday, March 17, 2017


NAY PYI TAW — The Ministry of Health and Sport has defended a controversial change in the licensing of nurses that on Wednesday prompted hundreds of students from Yangon’s University of Nursing to protest.

The ministry has also promised to negotiate with the students to resolve the dispute, which has also prompted nurses in Yangon, Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw to threaten strike action.

About 600 students from the University of Nursing in Lanmadaw Township marched from their campus to the Victory Monument at Maha Bandoola Park, after learning of a sudden change to their program that will prevent them from gaining nursing licences after graduating.

Students at the university learned late last month of the February 1 Ministry of Health directive, signed by Department of Medical Services director-general Dr Myint Han.

Previous student intakes had been given licences on graduation with the expectation of spending three years working in a public hospital. The new orders would require them to complete the public hospital traineeship before the nursing licences are issued.

The ministry said the change was required because many graduates were refusing to work for three years at state hospitals as required and instead taking higher-paid jobs in the private sector.

Responding to the protests on Thursday, Myint Han said the measure was designed to ensure there were enough nurses to staff the country’s 1,123 state-run hospitals. Presently the hospitals only have about half of the nurses and midwives required, the director-general said.

“Twenty-five percent of nursing graduates do not work at public hospitals at all,” said Myint Han. “The people need nurses for their healthcare.”

He said the students would be given a nurse registration card upon graduation and would still be able to work in the private sector when they are off duty.

Permanent secretary Dr Thet Naing Win said the ministry had formed a seven-member committee to negotiate with the students over their demands.

“We will listen to them so that we can know the students’ needs and consider what we can do. Don’t worry about it. We’ll never make students feel aggrieved. As soon as possible we’ll find a convenient solution for the two sides,” he said.

The ministry is also studying why graduates are refusing to work in the state system so it can take steps to address the issue, the officials said.

The ministry also plans to train 1,500 to 2,200 nurses a year by building more training schools, they said.

Ma May Hnin Thu, a nurse from Mandalay Children’s Hospital, told journalists after the press conference that the officials had not responded clearly to the students’ demands.

She said strike action was still being considered.

“Unless we get an answer we want, or at least a transparent answer, we’ll take some sort of action,” she said.

“Maybe it will include the whole country. I want to tell you on behalf of every one of us. We’ll take everything into account. We’ll take action after considering everything.”



Health Minister Rushes Back to Burma Amid Nursing Students’ Protest
Nurses gather at the front of the Health and Sports Ministry building in Naypyidaw on March 17. / Htet Naing Zaw / The Irrawaddy


By Htet Naing Zaw 17 March 2017

NAYPYIDAW — Union Minister for Health and Sports Dr. Myint Htwe has rushed back from a government trip abroad amid a protest by student nurses against government policy, said U Sein Win, deputy permanent secretary of the ministry.

Several hundred students from Rangoon’s University of Nursing took to the streets on Wednesday demonstrating against the ministry’s policy of issuing nurse and midwifery licenses to graduates only after the completion of three years of public service, and barring those who fail to complete the requirement from working at private hospitals.

The minister returned from his foreign trip ahead of schedule and will meet the ministerial team investigating the protests on Friday in Rangoon, the deputy permanent secretary told The Irrawaddy.

At a press conference held in Naypyidaw on Thursday, ministry officials announced a meeting between the investigation team and the press for the following day. Dozens of nurses gathered outside the ministry’s building in the administrative capital this morning.

The investigation team, however, is now in Rangoon to meet the minister. The nurses told the media they would wait in Naypyidaw until they heard the minister’s response on the issue.

Rumors have circulated that the leaders of the student nurses’ protest would be expelled. When confronted with the rumors, U Sein Win said it was up to the minister, adding that U Myint Htwe would also discuss the ministry’s regulations on nursing and midwifery licenses and salary increases for nurses.

The seven-member investigation team is headed by the deputy director general of the Department of Medical Services, and comprises the Department of Human Resources for Health director and the chairpersons of the Myanmar Nurse and Midwife Council and Myanmar Nurse and Midwife Association.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.


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