The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Docs go private in govt quarters

Kalimpong, June 22: Doctors of the Kalimpong subdivisional hospital are practising privately from their government quarters, even as the district health authorities feign ignorance.

While the service rules for non-teaching doctors do not bar them from practising privately, to do so from government-allotted quarters is against the regulations. As S. Bhowmik, chief medical officer of health, Darjeeling, said: 'Government quarters cannot be used for any other purpose (apart from staying).'

However, the doctors at the subdivisional hospital here seemed unaware of the rules, or worse, are knowingly flouting them. Barring a few, the majority of the doctors who have been allotted flats at the hospital quarters on K.D. Pradhan Road attend to patients privately from there. Two buildings comprising six flats each are designated doctors' quarters at the complex ' next to the subdivisional hospital ' that also houses quarters for nurses, para-medics and ward masters.

On any given day, a long queue of patients can be seen spilling out on to the forecourt of the buildings housing the doctors' quarters. 'Yes, I attend to patients here, but I am not the only one. Others do it too,' said one of the doctors, who charges anything between Rs 100 and Rs 120 as consultation fee. Patients should be getting the same service for free at the hospital.

Bhowmik said the matter has not been brought to his notice, but added that if the doctors are indeed practising from their quarters, it is the duty of the superintendents of the hospitals concerned to look into the matter. Superintendent of the Kalimpong subdivisional hospital S.R. Pradhan said he has not been given any clear guidelines on the use/abuse of government quarters. 'If we receive a circular or a government notification in this regard, we will implement it,' he said.

The government doctors here, like their counterparts elsewhere, are also accused of devoting more time to private practice at the cost of official duty. 'What the doctors should realise is that patients who go to government hospitals are mostly the ones who can't afford private clinics. And by taking their official task casually, the doctors end up hurting poor patients,' said Navin Poudyal of Lower Dungra Bustee.

S.K. Lama, health secretary of Darjeeling Gorkha Autonomous Hill Council, said his department had issued a notice asking doctors who accept non-practising allowance (NPA) from the government not to take up private practice. However, he, too, pleaded ignorance when asked about the use of official quarters for private practice by doctors who are not bound by the NPA clause.

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