Nurses’ shortage derails public healthcare

As medics flee the country in search of greener pastures, patients suffer neglect

KARACHI: The tussle between medics seeking better remuneration abroad and the government showing an unwillingness to expedite the recruitment of newer nurses, has instigated a huge shortage of medics, leaving the lives of ailing patients to hang loosely in between.

Where the weakened state of the economy has forced thousands of nurses to flee the country in search for better employment opportunities, the government’s inability to replace the departing healthcare workers with newer recruits due to pending cases in court, has resulted in a severe shortage of nursing staff across hospitals in Sindh, depriving multitudes of patients of the right to dedicated medical attention.

Jokhio, the attendant of a patient admitted in the Jinnah Hospital expressed his discontent at the level of neglect that patients in the hospital’s wards had to endure.

“In all wards of this hospital, one nurse checks in on patients in the morning and then abandons them for hours until her next shift.

Patients undergoing treatment abroad are given comprehensive care but unfortunately the situation in our country is starkly different,” regretted Jokhio, who felt that the dire shortage of nursing staff was gravely hampering the treatment prospects of patients.

According to the Sindh Health Department, 614 vacancies for nurses are empty in the province, while national estimates show that 1.3 million nurses are required across hospitals in the country.

“The acute shortage of nurses has put extreme pressure on the limited nursing staff available, which has to single-handedly serve a large number of patients,” said Sahar, a senior nurse at Jinnah Hospital, who further informed that only 260 nurses were serving the hospital which caters to thousands of patients.

Sahar believes that stressful working conditions, measly salaries and little or no work incentives is what has partly led to the shortage of nursing staff since many have started taking up jobs in other countries.

“The nurses that leave the country are not replaced by newer recruits due to an impending 11-year long case which defers the hiring of nurses in three hospitals, including the Jinnah Hospital,” she explained.

“Such a dire dearth of nurses means that one nurse alone has to manage up to 50 patients whereas in developed nations it is ensured that one nurse looks after two patients only,” added Sahar.

Speaking to The Express Tribune on the shortage of nurses bedevilling the public health system, Ejaz Kaleri, a member of the Pakistan Nursing and Midwifery Council Sindh felt that the shortage arose after the three-year nursing diploma program was abolished in 2018 and was replaced by the 4-year degree program and 1-year house job.

“Due to this major change, the recruitment of nurses was halted for 3 years, naturally creating a shortage of nurses, which was exacerbated after many started to leave the country for work opportunities abroad,” asserted Kaleri

Published at Express Tribune on 31st July 2023

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