| Patients at a ward in Patna Medical College and Hospital, the state’s premier health hub. Facilities like regular doctor visits still elude several district hospitals and health centres |
The state is facing acute shortage of doctors despite two new government medical colleges coming up at Bettiah and Pawapuri and two private facilities in the offing at Saharsa and Sasaram.
The shortfall could be gauged from the fact that of the 5,000 medical teachers required in the state, there are only 1,000 at present.
Against a requirement of 17,000 doctors under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), only 4,000 are on duty. So far as specialist doctors are concerned, the situation is even worse. There are around 1,500 specialist doctors against a requirement of 8,000.
The doctor-population ratio in Bihar is 1:3500, one of the lowest in the country.
Bihar requires 70,000 more doctors, according to a NRHM report to meet the required doctor-population ratio of 1:1000. There are 30,000 registered doctors in government as well as those engaged in private practice.
According to Bihar Health Service Association (BHSA), the government’s bid to streamline healthcare services would be futile unless the doctor shortage problem is addressed. BHSA secretary Ajay Kumar attributed the non-availability of doctors to delayed appointments, lack of incentives and poor personnel management.
He pointed out that around 20 doctors retire every month but their replacements are hardly found.
“According to the recommendations of National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (NCMH), Bihar requires 20 medical colleges to cater to the needs of its population against the present nine. According to an estimate, even if the state gets 20 medical colleges, it would take nearly 20 years to overcome the shortfall,” Ajay said.
He suggested that doctors and medical teachers should be appointed on yearly basis by taking the recruitment process out of the purview of the Bihar Public Service Commission like in Haryana.
He had even asked the state government to provide additional incentives to doctors to work in rural areas, as recommended by the NRHM and provide enhanced pay and other incentives to government doctors as stated in the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health report.
“The Medical Council of India (MCI) detected 18 per cent deficiency in the sanctioned strength of faculty, which is around 10 per cent shortage in nearly all government medical colleges of the state,” said Indian Medical Association, Bihar chapter president Dr Rajiv Ranjan.
Health secretary Sanjay Kumar Singh told The Telegraph: “There is a shortage of doctors in Bihar but we are trying to meet the shortfall. Lateral appointment of doctors for posts of assistant professors, associate professors and professors are being done to reduce the gap.”
On being asked about the BHSA’s demand of taking appointments out of the purview of BPSC, Singh said: “How can the BHSA demand such an unjust thing. They have no right. How can we bypass the Constitution? It’s within the constitutional norms.”