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Tough times ahead for errant doctors

Guwahati, June 29: Dispur is all set to crack the whip on government doctors who often give work a miss or simply do not turn up.

Announcing this today, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said it was “time for action” to bring to book those doctors who showed indifference towards the government’s attempt to improve the health service delivery mechanism of the state.

The crackdown would involve discharging nearly 200-300 incorrigible doctors by offering them voluntary retirement (VRS) or compulsory retirement (CRS), as retaining them in service would be meaningless.

Towards this end, government doctors have been divided into five categories — doctors staying at the headquarters and regularly attending duty, doctors who do not stay at the headquarters but regularly attend duty, doctors who do not stay at the headquarters and report late for duty, doctors who occasionally /rarely come for duty and doctors who do not attend to work at all.

Sarma said the catalyst behind the government’s move were reports about the “ebbing sincerity” among a section of doctors during the election process that started in March and added that such insincerity had the potential to negate the goodwill earned by the department in the last five years. “I am greatly disturbed by the developments. This crackdown will basically be on those falling in the fourth and fifth categories — those who occasionally/rarely come to duty and those who do not attend to duty at all. We have been watching the situation, but now the time has come for action. It is true that patients might suffer, but we have to take the risk if we want to change the delivery system for the better and infuse professionalism. Putting up with them is meaningless. They take all the benefits but give little in return,” he said.

The health minister said he had written to the district commissioners on June 17 seeking for reports about the errant doctors within 15 days and added that he had also requested the deputy commissioners to look into the matter personally.

“We have to do something, because we cannot run after them to change them. We will crack the whip, but in doing so, we will follow due procedure that will include getting the report from the deputy commissioners, issuing show cause notices to the doctors, go through their responses and then act accordingly. We may give them some time, if they dispute the deputy commissioner’s report, to mend their ways. As of now, however, we are firm on extending VRS or CRS,” Sarma said.

Sources in the health department said this was a warning to errant doctors. “Some, like habitual latecomers or shirkers, will definitely be shown the door, but those who genuinely improve their conduct will be let off with a warning. This has to be done to ensure that the functioning of the department does not suffer,” one of them said.

The health department is concerned about the development because its performance was the talking point of the recently concluded Assembly elections. The Congress’s good show at the hustings was attributed, to a certain extent, to the good show by the people-centric department, the source added.

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