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Curbs on govt doctors’ practice

Calcutta, Nov. 5: The state government today took reforms in the health sector a step further by imposing restrictions on government doctors allowed to practise in private to ensure their presence whenever needed at the hospitals they are attached to.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said the doctors will not be allowed to practise beyond a radius of eight kilometres from the hospitals. Even if they attend chamber within the stipulated distance, they will have to submit its address and telephone number to their hospital superintendents.

“We will be very strict because we have received complaints that when some doctors are urgently needed to attend to their patients in hospitals in the city, they are often found practising in Burdwan or Howrah,” Chatterjee said.

Health service doctors also cannot become resident medical officers (RMO) of private nursing homes and neither will they be allowed to become shareholders of private medical establishments. The director of health services reasoned that the RMO’s is a full-time job and no health service doctor can take it up.

Chatterjee added that government doctors cannot carry on private practice in their official quarters.

Health officials said there were complaints that a section of doctors in north Bengal were routing patients from the outdoor departments of the hospitals to their quarters in connivance with the Group D staff.

“This practice has to stop. It is illegal and it is patients who suffer in the long run. The government order on the restrictions will be circulated within a few days,” said Chatterjee.

Following complaints from patients and sections of the CPM and pro-Left doctors’ bodies, the government had created a separate non-practising cadre of doctors in the mid ’80s.

The move to rein in government doctors by creating the non-practising cadre was initiated by then health minister Ambarish Mukherjee. Those opting for the new cadre were given a special non-practising allowance. At present, the maximum allowance is around Rs 2,500.

Over the past 15 years, most of the 8,000-odd health service doctors have chosen the non-practising branch. Now, there are nearly 2,000 practising doctors in the different district, state general and sub-divisional hospitals in the state.

The Bengal branch of the Indian Medical Association welcomed the government’s decision. “The restrictions reflect logic and common sense. Once imposed, the practising doctors will be more readily available at hospitals and better service will be rendered,” said Subir Ganguly, chief of the IMA Bengal branch.

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