By Pongphon Sarnsamak
To resolve the problem, Chon Buri set up a booth at the local university to recruit nurses. The hospital offers scholarships and a monthly salary, together with Bt13,500 when graduates sign a contract. New recruits also get benefits such as over-time and special allowances.
"Only 10 newly graduated nurses a year come to talk with us and want to work at the hospital," he said. "Some just work for a few months and then resign due to the workload."
The hospital now has teamed up with a local university and other educational institutes to train its "own" nurses, by supporting them with Bt30,000 scholarships.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Thailand Nursing Midwifery Council, Thailand needs about 180,435 nurses in the health system but has only 138,710.
Human Resources for Health Research and Development Office (HRDO) manager Nongluck Pakraiya, who conducted a study, said many general and provincial hospitals, especially in the Northeast, had to resolve the problem by themselves.
They offer student nurses grants of Bt60,000 up to Bt160,000 and other benefits while in their first year of university. Nursing students were also asked to sign deals so they stayed with the hospital for four years.
The high demand for new nurses or nursing students at state hospitals has been caused by many senior nurses leaving over the past few years. Many experienced nurses could no longer bear the heavy workload, she said.
Another problem is most new nurses don't want to work at health ministry hospitals, as they are designated as temporary employees - not civil servants. They prefer to work at private hospitals instead, where they get higher wages for less work.
A 23-year-old nurse, who did not want to be named, who works at a state-run teaching hospital with a university, said she was offered a Bt150,000 scholarship by a state hospital while doing her first year at nursing school.
She had to sign a contract with the hospital and promised to work there for four years. Failing to complete the contract would have meant having to pay Bt300,000 back to the hospital in compensation.
She could get over Bt20,000 a month in salary to lift her quality of life but had to face a heavy workload everyday in the emergency department.
"Even though I face heavy workloads I will continue to work at this hospital as I can get an opportunity to improve my life," she said.