The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ban lifts on doctors' private practice
Medical colleges: 9
Post-graduate institutions: 3
Teaching doctors: 3,000 (approx.)
Vacant teaching posts: 200 (approx.)

Calcutta, Aug. 3: The government today tabled a bill to lift the ban on private practice by doctors teaching in state-run hospitals.

In 1990, the ruling Left Front had put the leash in place, saying private practice would harm the interests of medical students.

Fifteen years later, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government tabled the West Bengal State Health Service (Amendment) Bill, 2005, indirectly acknowledging that the ban had robbed the state's medical colleges of many good teachers and that the non-practising allowance was a pittance. The bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly today.

Early this year, the Left Front and the CPM leadership had admitted that a change in approach was necessary to fill up vacancies in teaching hospitals.

Tabling the bill this afternoon, health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said it was aimed at attracting specialist doctors to medical colleges. According to the health department, at least 100 specialists have left teaching hospitals in the past 10 years.

'With a view to improve the quality of medical education and attract the best talents, it has been considered necessary to allow private practice for doctors in the medical education service,' the minister said.

According to provisions of the bill, doctors can opt for private practice, otherwise they will be paid the usual non-practising allowance.

Mishra, however, said doctors holding administrative posts like director of medical education, principal, superintendent and district chief medical officer of health would not be given this choice. 'Those who have been appointed under the medical administration cadre will not come under the purview of the new legislation.'

Speaking to reporters later, Mishra said the lifting of the ban comes with some terms and conditions. 'We will soon frame a rule in this regard. There will be specific guidelines on how, when and where private practice will be allowed.'

He said seats for both undergraduate and post-graduate medical students have been increased and the Medical Council of India had repeatedly urged for improvement of infrastructure.

'The state government will not be able to meet the framework of the MCI unless the requirement of the prescribed number of medical teachers is met by way of expeditious recruitment. If we fail to comply with the norms of the MCI, the medical teaching institution will face de-recognition,' the minister warned.

He added that the bill when enacted would also help track down doctors collecting the non-practising allowance along with being engaged in private practice.

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