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Bill will bring doctors back into pay clinics

Concerned over the unwillingness of doctors to attend polyclinics, the government has decided to enact a law to make it mandatory for doctors of teaching hospitals (medical colleges and SSKM Hospital) to treat patients at polyclinics in their respective hospitals on a regular basis.

Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra will table the West Bengal State Health Service (Amendment) Bill, 2003, in this session of the Assembly. A draft of the bill has already been distributed. By the bill, all doctors of teaching hospitals, irrespective of designation, will be bound to attend to patients in the pay clinics.

“It shall be the duty of a person, holding a teaching post in any of the non-practising institutions, to render, in addition to his own duties, patient-care services in the Polyclinics or Pay Clinics run in such non-practising institutions,’’ the bill says.

Officials pointed out that the move follows a health department report that a section of teaching doctors is reluctant to attend pay clinics but prefers to practise in private, illegally. The government had set up the polyclinics in January 2002 so patients could avail of specialist treatment after hospital hours.

Treatment by a doctor of choice costs Rs 100 and Rs 50 for subsequent visits. Of the Rs 100, the doctor concerned gets Rs 60 and the hospital keeps Rs 40.

“We have information that a section of doctors is not satisfied with the fees. If doctors do not attend the polyclinics, the objective of the introducing the system is lost. An Act can compel them to attend the polyclinics,’’ health department officials said.

“Our aim is to boost healthcare facilities. No doctor should refuse to attend polyclinics, as it provides some extra income,’’ reasoned director of medical education C.R. Maity.

The doctors differed. “First, we tire out attending to patients at the outdoor department and cannot muster up the energy to treat more patients for another two hours. Second, and most important, the remuneration is never paid on time. It takes five to six months to arrive. I have been at the polyclinic since its inception, and after 18 months, I and many colleagues have been paid for seven months only,’’ said Dipesh Mondal, head of the neurology department, Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

Citing administrative problems, the director of medical education pledged steps to release the fees as early as possible.

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