Health department needs a massive overhaul 

Health and Medical Education Department last week terminated 8 doctors who were absent from their duties—unauthorized absence, which it is to be referred as. The step taken is appreciated, as it is imperative to remove the dead-wood from the healthcare system but is no longer serving the system. Great!

As per the order that was issued from the department, it said that Directorate of Health Services had forwarded the cases of 11 doctors, who were on unauthorized absence from their duties, and did not show up even after many notices served to them. However, three doctors joined back the department and eight were terminated finally.

Notably, an important question arises after the departmental action. What is the department planning as more additional vacancies are created? There are already numerous vacancies available within the system, for which the government is doing nothing in order to fill them up.

Moreover, the termination of these doctors has further added to the physical vacancy of Medical officers, which, as per numbers is: 397, and will go to more than 400 after the termination order, creating more vacancies, to which the department, so far, seems not to be paying any heed—when it comes to filling up the vacancies.

In this case the termination of doctors—though dead wood—is taking the system from bad to worse, not giving it any respite, as it should have been the opposite, but it is not.

There are reportedly many other cases of doctors who have been categorized under the tag of ‘unauthorized absence,’ and all the cases are undergoing a process, which will ultimately lead to their termination, if they did not show up.

If there are terminations happening around, there also should be additional creation of posts as well. You cannot go on terminating people, while you do not search for alternatives which will keep the system balanced, which as of now, it is not happening. There is imbalance, all over.

In peripheral healthcare system, doctor-patient ratio is haunting; number of specialists in any speciality is devastatingly less. There is irrational creation of infrastructure, and the man power is equal to nothing. There is no healthcare policy, there is no check on what should come up, where—politicians decide that, don’t they?

The thing is that termination of doctors who are not performing their duties, to terminate them, is taking the department years—a process is to be followed they say. I may ask what process? It is said and done that they are not willing to ‘serve the department anymore’ what process are you talking about?

Go on with just one notice and if they did not show up, terminate them. There is no need to issue three notices and then wait for their answer. Mind you, that you healthcare system is limping, you got to take some blunt steps to make it functional again. Some damn blunt steps.

At the same time, you will have to take up the process of filling up the vacancies available. I am not asking to fill every vacancy in a jiffy, take time, do it in a phase-wise manner, I won’t be asking to do the same what you did with 60000 daily wagers—back door appointments. But do it under a process: they say you love to follow the process, follow your love, but do it.

Rope in qualified National Health Mission (NHM) employees, they are qualified and can perform well. But the thing is to take an initiative, to make the system breathe again, will you?

Big dreams like free dialysis at district level, good if achieved—but you cannot shut your eyes when it comes to the actual deficiency of specialists. You are making a medical officer to see cases where you actually need a specialist. Then if any untoward incident happens, doctors are to be blamed, they usually are.

In fact, I will go to an extent of saying that the government is responsible for demonizing doctors in the eyes of public. They are looked at, as if they are savages, or some beasts. They are not. At times, they are pushed to handle the situation in a way that they have got option but accept whatever comes out of it: death—comes out with abuses, and even manhandling. Life—he is second to God. But miracles don’t happen always, they are second to God few times, and abused, man handled, usually.

(Irfan Tramboo is a Health Correspondent at ‘Kashmir Vision’)


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