By: Dr Akshay Minhas
More than 400 contractual doctors are on leave for three days from today onwards, demanding there rights of regularization, and the government has been quick to criticize the move. But none of the government officers even bothered to enquire why these doctors want to get regularized. I would like to highlight what the benefits and side- effects of this demand are.
A doctor when comes out of a medical college is around 26 years of age. But today, as everybody wants to get best treatment, he or she prefers specialized persons, so to do specialization doctors have to sit in another exam and clear the exam and again study for another three years, and similarly another three years to qualify as a super specialist. If everything goes right, a doctor can become a super-specialist at 32, but out of 10 super specialized doctors only one is able to complete it at this age and even by this age 70 % of the doctors are not able to do post graduation. So here lie a doctor’s struggled.
Now another point is that as we know India is divided by cast and religions, our post-graduate seats are also divided. We have 68 post-graduates seats in Himachal, out of which 34 are reserved for all India quota, which means these 34 students will come from those who have cleared the all India post-graduation exam. From the remaining 34 seats, 21 seats are reserved for doctors who are regular employees with Himachal government. These 21 seats will further be dived on the basis of caste, etc, and only four seats are reserved for doctors who are working for the state government on contract. Out of these four, there will be one each for each reserved category. The remaining 13 seats are left for the open category. From next year onwards, out of 34, around 25 seats will be reserved for regular working doctor and out of this five will be for contractual. From 2013 onward, 95 % of the total state quota reserved seats will be reserved for regular doctors, meaning that only three seats will be left. Foreseeing this scenario, contractual doctors have no option but to seek permanent employment.
Another benefit of doing post-graduation as a regular doctor is that your service is counted but for contractual no such policy is there. Which means that my services will be terminated if I go for PG while my friend, a regular doctor, will be three years senior to me if I join back.
Another benefit for the government is that if a regular doctor goes to do post-graduation, he or she will return to do duties because the service is counted, but in case of a contractual doctor or a doctor through general quota there are 99% chances that he will join government duties for a maximum period of three years to gain some experience and then jump to the private sector. This trend is quite visible in doctor shortage being faced across hospitals in the state. The district hospital in Chamba is not heaving an ENT specialist form last 5 years, no skin, no ladies specialist, no neuro and many more, and this is only one example.
Union health minister Gulam Nabi Azad was once asked why highly-qualified doctors were being kept on contract and not as regular employees by state, and he had replied that when a state government hires a doctor on contract most of the salary is paid by the centre. So it’s clear that if the Himachal government regularizes all doctors they have to bear the expenditure themselves.
The move will also create professional rivalry among doctors because a regular doctor will draw more pay, more holidays, more increments, etc, while the contractual will be sitting and cursing his fate. The health minister has been saying that post-graduation seats have been increased to 68, but the fact is that the central has changed its policy demanding 1 professor for every PG student. Knowing that we are facing acute shortage of doctors, it seems unlikely that the new conditions would be met.
So the moral of this whole story is that benefits are more important as compare to drawbacks.