Resident medical officers of Dhaka's Birdem General Hospital said the authorities cut their monthly salaries and other benefits although they were treating patients amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Such arbitrary decisions came as a blow to the morale of trainee physicians who are working tirelessly in this diabetic hospital, they opined.
In a letter to the hospital authorities on June 9, the RMOs mentioned that the authorities did not even consult them while slashing their monthly pay and festival bonuses. They added that they did not get the newly introduced Baishakh festival bonus in April.
Each RMO receives a nominal monthly pay of Tk 30,000. According to the RMOs, they were not paid their full salaries for the last two months.
Birdem authorities, however, said their payment was not cut; instead it was being delayed and would be given soon.
The authorities added that they were compelled to make the decision as their income fell drastically due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RMOs are junior medical officers. They are temporarily enrolled in Birdem, one of the five listed hospitals where medical professionals seeking the FCPS degree undergo a three-year mandatory residency training.
In the letter, a copy of which The Daily Star has obtained, the RMOs said some doctors have been infected with coronavirus while treating patients, but the Birdem authorities did not take any initiative to treat them.
The RMOs declined to say anything on record, fearing a backlash from authorities. But most of them said they were working extra hours to make up for the senior consultants' absence.
"Earlier, we used to work eight hours a day, but now we are working on average 12 hours a day and five days a week," said an RMO.
He also alleged after the coronavirus outbreak in the country, most of the senior doctors remained absent in the hospital.
"There are 179 medical officers in the hospital, and 107 of them are RMOs and the rest are senior medical officers," he said.
Another RMO said 36 of the admitted patients tested Covid-19 positive in a day.
The aggrieved RMOs have also placed a five-point demand in the letter.
These are: regularising the RMOs, treating Covid-19 infected physicians and their family members, giving Tk 10 lakh to their family members as compensation in case of death, providing necessary safety equipment to the working doctors, and formulating a written policy for Covid-19 positive and non-Covid-19 patients.
Contacted, Prof Dr AK Azad Khan, president of Diabetic Association of Bangladesh that runs the Birdem General Hospital, told this correspondent that some of their demands were illogical.
"As far as I know, RMOs have been enrolled here as part of their training and education. We give them training allowances, not salaries. Information of salary cut is not true. Currently, there is a fund crisis and that's why payment of their remaining allowance is being delayed," said Prof Azad.
Nazmul Islam, joint director of Birdem General Hospital, also echoed the view.
"We give each of them Tk 30,000 as monthly allowance. Our incomes have drastically dropped. We used to earn Tk 16-18 crore a month, but that has now come down to Tk 2 crore. We will urge the RMOs to have patience," he said.
"We realise their pain and will pay their dues soon as they earn very little, but we have nothing to do with their job regularisation," said Nazmul, adding that salaries of both RMOs and senior physicians had been cut.