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Medics queue up for VRS

Patna, Sept. 3: Acute shortage of doctors ails the state, but that has not refrained doctors from expressing a desire to quit the state health services.

Official figures with the health directorate have revealed that about applications of 200 doctors opting for the voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) are pending with the department.

Sources said around 75 applications are almost two years old, while several others have been submitted in the past 10 months. The pile of applications has left higher-ups in the department worried but several of them attribute the trend to poor service conditions for medics in government services.

This is a major cause of concern for the government as over 52 per cent of the total sanctioned posts of regular doctors are vacant. National Rural Health Mission recommends at least 12,000 doctors for the state, while it has to manage with only around 4,000 of which almost 1,500 are contractual.

A senior official in the health directorate said: “There are about 2,500 regular doctors in the state and we have to manage with 52 per cent of the doctors against the total number of sanctioned posts. However, many in the government service want to leave and we have been receiving many VRS applications in the past few months but disposal of such cases take time and therefore many of the applications are pending.”

Doctors’ bodies attributed the reason behind the surge in number of applications to the government’s “anti-doctor policies and high-handedness of bureaucrats”.

Ajay Kumar, the secretary general of Bihar Health Services Association, a body of government doctors, said he was “not surprised that many doctors are opting for VRS”.

“The service condition for doctors in the state is deteriorating. They are made to work in extremely hostile conditions with no facilities, no rural allowances and dim chances of promotion. Bureaucratic interference is so high and discouraging that no new doctor wants to join the services. Even worse, those who are already on rolls want to escape. If such large numbers of doctors are showing willingness to leave, it is high time the government ponders what’s driving them to take the step,” added Kumar.

He added that at least 12,000 doctors have been registered in Bihar in the last decade but only around 800 joined government hospitals on regular basis.

“While vacancies have been few and far between, even when the government has tried to hire doctors, it has had little luck. It shows government services hold little attraction for doctors now,” said Kumar before warning that the department could be flooded with several more applications in the next few months.

Doctors, who have applied for VRS, complained even escaping the government services was not easy because of red tape and corruption. “I have paid Rs 25,000 at different levels in the department so far but my file has not been cleared yet. I have been languishing in a block-level hospital for years. I have been denied promotion for long and the attitude of the district magistrate and even block-level officials is so bad towards doctors that it is frustrating to work. Even though I applied for VRS in February last year, officials are sitting over the file and my future seems uncertain,” said a government doctor, requesting anonymity.