By Pratch Rujivanarom,
QUOTAS FOR nursing positions are negotiable and the Public Health Ministry should manage vacant positions before taking other actions, the government has said.
After the Cabinet turned down a proposal to add 10,992 more permanent nursing positions, the Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council warned that unless quotas are increased, the Public Health Ministry will be unable to keep experienced nurses, worsening the already-chronic nursing shortage.
Public Health Minister Dr Piyasakol Sakolsatayadorn said yesterday the Cabinet had decided that the Public Health Ministry should manage positions that are already vacant before asking for an increased quota from the Civil Service Commission Office.
“The Public Health Ministry has 400,000 work positions and around 10,000 vacant positions. It may look like a lot, but indeed it is only 5 per cent of all job positions. The official workforce target and policy-setting committee see that the ministry should manage these vacant slots first,” Piyasakol said.
“After internal discussions, I expect that we can decrease the vacant positions to about 2 per cent, but these positions are not only for nurses, but all staff of the ministry.”
He said Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha was concerned about the issue, as Prayut had told him to manage the vacant positions for nurses. If there are not enough vacancies, the ministry could negotiate for more positions later, he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the Cabinet had not approved the proposal to increase positions because the official workforce target and policy-setting committee had considered the issue and already allocated civil servant positions to the Public Health Ministry. It was up to the ministry to manage the quota, Wissanu said.
Wissanu added that there were other reasons, not just budgetary, that made the Cabinet decide not to increase the quota.
“Since the civil servant system reformation in [former prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra’s adminis
tration, the government can maintain the number of civil servants in the system at around 400,000, which is preferable. But if the government says yes to all requests for more positions from every ministry, the number of civil servants will increase to around 500,000,” Wissanu said. “If the Public Health Ministry urgently needs more positions, they can negotiate with the Civil Service Commission Office. There are more than 10,000 civil servant positions provided to Public Health Ministry already.”
However, Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council vice president Dr Krisada Sawaengdee said the proposal to increase civil servant positions for nurses should be implemented to keep nurses in the system, as hard work, low pay and a lack of job security caused more than 800 to resign from the public sector every year.
“The lack of civil servant positions for nurses has been a chronic problem in Thailand for more than a decade as the Public Health Ministry has not increased the positions for nurses for a long time,” Krisada said.
She said the nurse shortage in many public hospitals forced hospitals to hire nurses through other methods, including hiring temporary employees who receive less pay and lower welfare benefits. This prompted many nurses to seek work in private hospitals for a better salary and more secure job security.
“The nurses are a major cog that drives our health care system. They are working very hard for long hours, so they need the civil servant positions for their job security and to keep them working in the public health system,” she added.