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Saturday, January 21, 2012

Doctor shortage in rural areas a matter of concern

Dehradun, January 21
There was a time when dialysis facilities did not exist in Dehradun, but the public-private initiative with Apollo has helped Dewan get the treatment at Dehradun’s Coronation Hospital. But go further towards Premnagar and one would see the upgraded PHC, which was inaugurated in 2008, continues to face shortage of doctors.
Equally, in Uttarkashi’s remote villages of Bevra and Manjhi, a father carrying his sick child on his shoulder to a dispensary run by a pharmacist for a skin ailment is a common sight. This, then, is the distance that the state health sector has travelled since 2002.
Without a doubt, there has been a lot of improvement in the health sector since the creation of the state, but the progress seems slow and at times debilitating due to manpower crisis. Newly upgraded Primary Health Centres and First Referral Health Units continue to wait for doctors. Since the creation of the state, only 205 new doctors have been recruited, bringing the government’s efforts towards building infrastructure to a naught.
Shortage of Doctors
There is a shortage of 1,185 doctors in the state against the 2,202 sanctioned posts of senior medical officers and medical officers falling in different grades. The problem is acute in the hilly areas. Against 185 sanctioned posts of the senior medical officers (specialist cadre), 141 posts are vacant and only 44 posts of senior medical officers have been filled.
In the senior-medical officers’ category (non-specialist), against 205 sanctioned posts, 193 are lying vacant.
Against the requirement of 316 medical officers grade 1 (specialist cadre), 162 medical officers are working and there is a shortage of 154 doctors.
“The doctors are unwilling to go to the hills due to lack of facilities. Though the government has been giving financial incentives to the doctors in the remote areas, these have been spurned by the doctors,” said health minister Banshidhar Bhagat.
Public Private Partnership
A serious shortage of trained medical professional in the rural areas and concentration in the urban areas has forced the patients to travel several kilometres to Dehradun. The staff shortage forced the government to go for public-private partnership in the area of diagnostic, MRI, cardiology and nephrology centers, but privatisation cannot be a panacea for all ills as the government cannot wash it’s hands off from creating infrastructure and manpower,” said Dr S Pal, former Director-General, Health.
However, for the first time, the 108 Emergency services being run by the government with GVK EMRI on public private partnership faced problems as the staff began demanding absorption in the government services.
“In its bid to tide over manpower crunch, the government has increasingly gone for privatisation and hired contractual staff to run the services but the strike by the 108 staff has again shown that the health services being run under the public-private mode can also be affected by strikes,” said Dr Pal.
Focus on Medical Colleges
In its efforts towards increasing the human resource development, the government has also focused on opening medical colleges in the state at Rudrapur, Almora and Dehradun.
“The Srinagar Medical College and the Haldwani Medical College are already running. We have cleared proposals for three more colleges with the hope that we would be able to get doctors who have already signed bonds to work in the state. This would take time but it is a long-term plan and would yield results in the coming years,” said Vinita Kumar, principal secretary, Health.

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