National Health Mission (NHM) contractual employees are now on strike for last many days, demanding regularization of their services. The response that they have got so far is discouraging—there has been no response from the state government—they are just letting them spend days in Pratap Park during chilly days of Chillae Kalaan, least they seem to be bothered.
What has taken a hit is the already grappling healthcare in peripheries, where regular doctors have now been burdened with extra hours of duty. No need to mention that the system in peripheries is already burdened so is the central system; amid all this, silence from the government seems to be criminal.
There are 10000 NHM employees working in the state as specialist doctors, paramedics and technologists, with 4500 employees belonging to Jammu division. Out of 10000 employees many are at the verge of crossing the age limit needed for getting a government job. Is the government buying time for that? So far it seems to be the case.
Needless to mention that the state is already having dearth of manpower in healthcare, and there are various posts vacant as well, why not to fill these vacant posts by roping in NHM employees? Financial burned on state exchequer? Well, what about those who have been recently regularized (around 60000 daily wagers, I guess?) Isn’t that a burden for the state exchequer?
It is a known fact that among these 60000 employees, a huge chunk was adjusted in different departments via the ‘back door’ and many among them were let in without any proper screening, thus clear signs of corruption. If that can happen, what is stopping the government from regularizing qualified and hardworking NHM employees? They have been let in through a proper screening process, and they didn’t even come from ‘back door.’ Logic fails to work, I must say!
In many district and sub district hospitals you are regularizing people who are working under Hospital Development Fund (HDF), entries that are usually with a political support of a local MLA—who doesn’t give a damn care about the system. They are securing their base via HDF, and what is being done is that the government is letting them in, through the backdoor, and are even regularizing them.
Time has come to put some logic at work. There are some vacancies, the government should start a phased regularization process to rope in NHM employees and until the process starts, give these employees what they deserve, not on humanitarian basis, but what has been guaranteed by the law.
Treat them as per the principle of ‘equal work, equal pay.’ Provide them with all the privileges that any regular or permanent employee is getting. Imagine, a female doctor working in a far flung area is not given a privilege of maternity leave, and if she didn’t show up for 40 days, the contract stands cancelled, can you believe?
Even after working at par with other doctors, the NHM doctors are treated like orphans, and law, or for that matter, Supreme Court guidelines take a flight.
The need of an hour is to address the problems of NHM employees, presently they are not working, which means extra load on the existing manpower (which I may remind the government, is already less), which means patient care is taking a hit, which means there can be any eventuality around the corner (God forbid), which means once again a doctor will be blamed for that eventuality, even striking NHM employees may be blamed for that (you never know!), which means further degradation of the already degraded system.
Silence is not going to resolve issues, action will, come on.
(Irfan Tramboo is a Health Correspondent at ‘Kashmir Vision’)