mid-day editorial: Cancel errant doctors' licences

The state has suspended seven doctors who have been on ‘leave’ from duty at the JJ Hospital for anywhere between four to 23 years.

In all, there are 26 vacancies in state hospitals across the state due to doctors remaining on the rolls, but perpetually on leave. As long as these doctors are off the rolls, replacements cannot be appointed to these posts.

Senior health officials admit that this could be because the errant doctors are unwilling to serve at JJ or the other government hospitals. The problem lies in the huge gap between what doctors earn in private hospitals and government institutions pay.

While it is true that doctors deserve the right to earn salaries in keeping with their unique skill set, it is also a known fact that the government can never match what is on offer in even the lower rung of private hospitals, leave alone the big super-specialty hospitals. But the government does have a duty to provide healthcare to even the poorest of its citizenry.

There seem to be two reasons for this trend — transfers, which mean a doctor has to shift his base and family to a new district, and the conditions to resign from a government hospital are stringent. But these can’t be excuses to behave in the manner some have been doing. By just not reporting to duty, they should realise they are blocking the entry of another doctor to fill that vacancy.

Right now, doctors who refuse to do their work in public hospitals are barred from joining only other such public or state-run hospitals. There is no rule stopping them from joining a private hospital. If the government decides to cancel the licences of such errant doctors, maybe they will think twice about taking government postings lightly.

Simultaneously, the government should also start looking at laws to impose a monetary penalty on such doctors, something similar to what it has in place for those who breach the compulsory rural service bond.

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