ASTHA organized a round table discussion on community paramedics in Bangladesh: Chief guest State Minister for Health and Family Welfare advocates for skilled healthcare providers

Swisscontact in association with Prothom Alo, a major daily newspaper in Bangladesh, organised a roundtable discussion titled ‘Prospect of Skilled Paramedics in the Healthcare Sector of Bangladesh’ on 24 January 2018. A number of policy makers, sector experts and relevant stakeholders participated in the event where the speakers advocated for enhancing scope of employment for the community paramedics. Discussions were also made on the possibility of community paramedics filling the skills gap in the health sector of Bangladesh.

Honorable State Minister for Health and Family Planning-  Zahid Maleque chaired the discussion. He reminded the participants of the existing skills gap in the health sector and acknowledged community paramedics’ capacity to serve the hard-to-reach grassroot population.  Realising the potential of community paramedics Minister Zahid Maleque said that it is high time Bangladesh focuses on these newly introduced health care professionals. He principally agreed on the inclusion of community paramedics as ‘Community Health Care Providers (CHCPs)’ at some 13,000 community clinics across the country. Additionally, development experts from UNFPA and WaterAid, as well as relevant senior government representatives who participated in the discussion unanimously agreed on the potential of community paramedics in providing healthcare service at various government healthcare institutions.

A new stream of mid-level healthcare service providers named Community Paramedics (CPs) were introduced by the government of Bangladesh in 2009. Community Paramedics is a two-year course which can be availed after completion of Secondary School Certificate (SSC), designed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW), where students acquire and develop skills on maternal and child health, reproductive health, family planning and general healthcare services. Community paramedics are equiped to provide healthcare service to rural communities where the scarcity of doctors and other skilled healthcare professionals is a crude reality. Up until today approximately 2,000 community paramedics have graduated from training institutes and approximately 1,000 students are currently enrolled in the programme. Majority of the community paramedics serve their local communities through self-practice. Currently this cadre is facing a number of challenges including lack of government attention, low public awareness, limited scope of salaried employment, absence of proper monitoring mechanism and others.

Improving Rural Healthcare Service through Community Paramedic Programme (IRHSCPP), branded as ASTHA (Achieving Sustainability Towards Healthcare Access) from January 2015 – December 2018, jointly funded by Novartis and Swisscontact, has been designed to facilitate the development and integration of community paramedic services in rural Bangladesh, particularly in Nilphamari, Patuakhali and Sunamganj districts.