The Public Health Ministry yesterday offered to grant immediate civil-servant status to 4,000 medical workers, including nurses, and – at the very least – offer longer contracts to other temporary employees, but nurses were skeptical about the move, saying the number was too small.
The offer follows last month’s protest by thousands of nurses demanding recruitment into the civil service. Many have been working at state hospitals for years in the hope of becoming civil servants, but continue to be categorised as temporary employees.
The nurses have complained of a huge workload, while the contractual basis of their employment leaves them insecure about their careers and futures.
Public Health Minister Pradit Sinthawanarong made the offer yesterday at a meeting of representatives of the protesting nurses.
He said 4,000 positions in the civil service would be made available to medical workers to solve shortages at state hospitals. Priorities would be given to medical workers who should have been recruited as civil servants between 2005 and 2007.
Pradit said medical workers who do not receive civil-servant status in this round would be recruited as employees of the Public Health Ministry. While awaiting recruitment, they will receive longer-term employment contracts.
“The contracts will be valid for five to 10 years,” Pradit said.
He added that salary adjustments would also be provided for these medical workers. Their salaries, he said, might be even higher than those of civil servants.
However, nurse representative Ekachai Fatai said the nurses’ network could not accept Pradit’s offer.
“We think the available civil-servant seats for nurses will stand at just 1,000, because there are abylso medical workers in other fields,” he said.
He said such the number was too small, given that there were about 17,000 temporary-employee nurses at state hospitals across the country.
On the offer to recruit medical workers as employees of the Public Health Ministry, Ekachai said if all medical workers – including doctors and dentists – received the same treatment, the nurses’ network might agree to it.
“We have to do away with inequality,” Ekachai said.
He said the network would hold meetings to consider the components of the offer and plan their next step.
Ekachai said that if the nurses did not get a satisfactory offer by January, they might stage another big protest, hold a nationwide strike or even quit.
“In fact, we hope all 17,000 temporary-employee nurses will get civil-servant status,” he said.
Pradit said a panel would be established to find a proper solution and representatives of all parties concerned would sit on this panel.
“It’s not that the Public Health Ministry doesn’t want to recruit all the nurses. It’s just that we also have to take into account fiscal policy and the available funds,” he said.