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Sahi on contract call

Ranchi, June 11: Unfazed by the failure of the “doctors on contract” experiment in the state, the health and family planning department today announced plans to recruit 2,000 more doctors “on contract” by this year-end.

Health minister Bhanu Pratap Sahi told a television channel that the process would start soon after the ongoing exercise to recruit 3,000 auxiliary midwives is completed.

Admitting to a severe shortage of government doctors, the minister declared that contractual appointment is necessary to tide over the crisis.

The state currently is saddled with 500 doctors “on contract” who have been demanding regularisation of service. Upset over the minister’s statement, president of State Contract Doctors’ Association Bimlesh Singh said: “ We are surprised at the announcement. The minister’s priority should have been to address our demand first.”

The announcement caught the health department by surprise. Because Jharkhand high court had quashed contractual appointment of doctors, which it held to be illegal and unconstitutional.

Pronouncing the verdict around two years ago, the high court had also directed the government to fill up the vacant posts of doctors immediately through regular appointments at the state level.

“The department could be pulled up by the court if it makes fresh attempts to recruit doctors on contract. If the matter is brought to the notice of the court, there could be major embarrassment for the department. The minister must re-think before implementing what he has announced,” warned an official of the department.

In 2003, the state had invited applications for contract doctors against 2468 vacancies and finally 1,800 of them were recruited. The doctors were initially given a contract for two years, which was later extended twice for a year each.

Four years down the line, only around 500 of them have stuck to their contracts while others simply gave up.

“Why would doctors slog for just Rs 14,000 a month when the neighbouring state of Bihar is giving nearly double the salary,” wondered Singh, who claimed that most of the doctors have left Jharkhand and opted to join Bihar government.

The minister, when contacted, claimed that recruitment on contract would be a stop-gap arrangement till the public service commission makes permanent appointments.

“Health is an essential service and the state government cannot allow people to suffer due to lack of doctors,” declared Sahi.

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