The Jharkhand State Health Services Association (JSHSA) has called an emergency meeting in Ranchi on Sunday to discuss the course of action against a recent government directive restricting private practice by government doctors beyond their duty hours.
JSHSA state convener Dr Thakur Mrityunjay Kumar Singh has asked representatives of all district units to be present at the meeting. The state branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) wrote a letter to chief minister Hemant Soren on Friday, requesting him to give direction for withdrawal of the directive.
The discontent started growing among government doctors since the directive was issued on July 25 by Sweta Kumari, senior adviser to the Jharkhand State Arogya Samiti, stating they could not treat patients at private hospitals, nursing homes or diagnostic clinics after their duty hours.
The directive also asks government doctors to give an undertaking that they would only offer consultation at clinics after duty hours and declare the names of such clinics. Such clinics should be located at least 500 metres away from government hospitals in urban areas and 250 metres away in rural areas, the directive specified.
Government doctors are aggrieved because those who are attached to government hospitals of Jharkhand (except those working at the Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences in Ranchi) are not paid non-practising allowance and, as such, are permitted to do private practice after their duty hours.
“This is actually a revival of an old order issued in July 2016 by the then additional chief secretary (health) K. Vidyasagar that had banned private practice by government doctors,” the IMA letter to Hemant, signed by Jharkhand state unit president Dr Arun Kumar Singh and secretary Dr Pradip Kumar Singh on Friday, stated.
When the order sparked huge protests by doctors, Vidyasagar had assured them of withdrawing the directive, which was not done and has now been revived, the letter added.
The IMA letter reminded Hemant that the doctors had kept the health service operational during the Covid-19 pandemic and some of them even died while on duty. But instead of rewarding them, restrictions were being imposed, it added.Since they are not paid non-practising allowance, these doctors are entitled to do private practice after their duty hours but the directive would put a brake on that, the letter mentioned.
“Jharkhand government hospitals lack doctors and the authorities had to often increase the age limit for recruitment for filling up the vacancies,” the IMA letter stated.
“This is an arbitrary order,” said a surgeon, explaining he could not treat a patient who may come with acute pain in abdomen and need immediate surgical intervention for removing appendix or stones in gall bladder unless he is allowed to use the operation theatre at a private facility. The JSHSA meeting on Sunday is expected to decide if the doctors would go for phase-wise agitation or put pressure on government by submitting mass resignation.