A critical shortage of nurses in state hospitals is looming as hundreds of nurses are expected to look for work overseas when the Asean Economic Community starts in 2015.
This could accentuate a shortage in the public sector, which many nurses have abandoned for higher-paying jobs in private hospitals, said Waraphon Kawiwitthayaphon, the secretary of a nurse shortage monitoring panel under the Thailand Nursing and Midwifery Council.
Many nurses would probably leave Thailand to work for better paying jobs in Singapore when free labour movements are ushered in as part of the AEC, she said.
Nurses are among professionals and specialists including doctors, engineers, architects, accountants and those working in natural resources who will be allowed to work across the region when Asean forms the community in the next three years.
Some Singaporean hospitals have offered salaries of up to 50,000 baht a month along with benefits such as accommodation and meals if Thai nurses meet Asean labour's standards for working abroad, said Siriwan Yimliang, deputy Phichit hospital director who chairs the nursing administration association.
That's much higher than the rate offered by Thai state hospitals, which pay 12,000 baht at the most for long shifts, she said.
Some nurses work two shifts that last up to 16 hours and they cannot take leave during long holidays when hospitals are often flooded with accident-related cases. They are likely to leave for better work opportunities abroad which will further worsen the current shortage of up to 30,000 nurses, she said.
At public hospitals, nurses have the status of "temporary employees", who have fewer welfare options than state officials, Ms Waraphon said.
Nurses have formed a group to ask the government and the Public Health Ministry to change their status to solve the staff shortage.
They have met authorities three times to discuss their issues, so far without success, Ms Waraphon said.
Ms Waraphon, together with Ms Wiriwan, yesterday led 30 nurses' representatives to ask Laddawan Wongsriwong, former Pheu Thai member and chairwoman of theSiang Sattri (women's voice) club in Phichit to forward their problems to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Nurses would gather at Government House on Oct 16 to remind the government of the promise it made to cooperate with them, they said.