The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hospitals dread ‘backbone’ blow

Calcutta, March 2: Hospitals in the city are staring into a void following a change in rules regarding the appointment of members of the house staff.

Till a recent health department directive, every hospital had the power to appoint members of the house staff from a pool of doctors who graduated less than two years ago. Now, the hospitals will have to look for them among willing doctors who have passed out less than a year ago.

Officials managing the city hospitals said as an overwhelming majority of fresh MBBS graduates spend the first year trying their luck in post-graduate entrance examinations across the country, the change in rules constricts choice “severely”.

The system has already been implemented in Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College and Hospital, the busiest of the five teaching hospitals in the city. An official there said that going by their experience, the entire healthcare system is looking at an imminent collapse if the government is not convinced into withdrawing the “ill-conceived” change.

The situation is a “desperate one”, an official said, as the population of “junior doctors” in a hospital shoulders most of the burden. The members of the house staff form the backbone of the junior-doctor population in every hospital, scoring over the other two categories — interns and post-graduate trainees — in several respects.

“The members of the house staff are more experienced than the interns and usually seen to shoulder more burden than the post-graduate trainees because they are more recent pass-outs,” a senior health department official said, explaining why they were crucial, especially in the bigger and busier hospitals.

Hospital officials pointed out one consequence of the NRS experiment. After 11 members of the medicine department house staff handed in their papers, the authorities asked recent graduates to apply for the vacancies. Only one obliged, an official said.

“Most of us spend the first year after internship trying to crack the post-graduate examinations,” said a fresh doctor. “Many think of applying for being a member of the house staff only in the second year to earn some money, after checking out and exhausting other options,” her batch-mate said.

The medicine department experience has woken up officials manning other wings of NRS and hospitals elsewhere. “This rule has the potential to cripple the health service system like no other,” said a departmental head of Medical College and Hospital.

Director of medical education Chittaranjan Maiti admitted to getting phone calls. “Officials from the hospitals have been calling me up, saying the change in rules is hampering normal healthcare services,” he said. “I have, therefore, suggested that they send me lists of doctors willing to be members of the house staff despite having crossed the cut-off date.”

Computer lessons

The health department will introduce crash courses on computers for employees in all hospitals. Beginning with those in the city, the decision will be implemented in the districts as well. Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said major hospitals will get 100 computers.

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