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30 Jun 2018

Bengal nurse plan

TT,  Jun 30, 2018, Calcutta: The Bengal government has decided to increase the retirement age for nurses from 60 to 62 years to meet an acute shortage but a formal order is yet to be issued.

It has also decided to raise from 39 to 45 years the age bar for employing nurses on contract.

The move is being seen as an effort to bridge the demand-supply gap that the state has not been able to overcome despite regular recruitments. Such hiring, in turn, leads to an exodus of nurses from private hospitals to the government sector and hits the services of the former until the posts are filled up.

"The formal order (on raising the age) is yet to be issued. Once signed, it will be sent to Swastha Bhavan (the health department) for implementation," said an official at state secretariat Nabanna.

According to official data, the sanctioned strength of nurses in state hospitals is 43,041. Of these, only 38,300 are filled now, a shortfall of 4,700 seats, or 12 per cent. The sanctioned number should itself be higher, according to many doctors and hospital administrators who point to the rise in the number of beds.

According to private healthcare officials, the gap is difficult to bridge because there aren't enough nursing seats in colleges. Bengal has 1,225 BSc nursing seats; the number of general nursing and midwifery seats is 2,105. This takes the total to 3,330.

"Policy-makers in Bengal should have recognised that health care would see a boom and kept adding to the number of nursing seats in colleges," Uma Ukande, president of the Nursing Research Society of India, had recently said.

Observers said Bengal should increase nursing and MBBS seats, something states like Kerala have done over the years.

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