Mumbai: 23 years on, JJ Hospital sends suspension letters to missing doctors

Since 1993, seven teaching posts have been vacant at the state-run medical college and hospital

The State Health Department has finally moved to suspend seven doctors who have been on ‘leave’ from their postings at the Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital, the largest public medical facility in the city. The period of absenteeism extends from four years to 23 years in some cases.

JJ OPD takes in 7,500 patients a day. Unavailability of senior doctors affects the clinical quality of treatment
JJ OPD takes in 7,500 patients a day. Unavailability of senior doctors affects the clinical quality of treatment 

The response to an RTI application, filed in June last year by a JJ alumni, shows that across the state, 26 teaching posts at state-run hospitals have been lying in limbo for 23 years due to absenteeism by doctors on ‘leave’. These vacancies are largely of posts such as senior professors, assistant professors and associate professors. In a hospital, professors perform the dual role of conducting critical surgeries and guiding resident doctors in how to handle cases. This takes the work load off the head of the department.

At JJ Hospital, there have been vacant posts in critical departments such as paediatrics (two), neurosurgery (two), gyneacology and obstetrics (one), orthopedics (one) and preventive and social medicine (one).

When sunday mid-day contacted, Dr Tatyarao P Lahane, Dean of the Grant Medical College and JJ Hospital, he said that since November, the health department has been working towards conducting Departmental Enquiries (DE) against the missing doctors. “There were as many as 26 doctors in the state and we are in a process of sending them suspension letters. Many of them have already received the same,” he said.

Lahane added that the process of re-hiring can only begin once the suspension procedure is completed. “The report will be sent to the ministry. They will take up hiring accordingly,” added Lahane. These are not loose ends that are expected to be tied very soon.

The applicant, who didn’t wish to be named, said, “There is a high probability that the doctors didn’t want to join JJ and thus chose to go on leave.” The RTI response also mentions two other doctors who were transferred from JJ to other hospitals, who have been on leave since. Dr R S Haridas, professor at psychiatry and Dr Tirupama Patil, professor, radiology. Dr Haridas was transferred to Government Medical College, Aurangabad, and Patil to Swami Ramanand Teerth Rural Medical College, Ambajogai. While Haridas was transferred from the hospital on July 2, 2011, Patil was asked to join the medical college of Ambejogai on May 4, 2009.

While the monthly salary for the posts mentioned starts at Rs 35000 and could extend to Rs 75,000, this amount is much smaller compared to what private facilities pay. However, the doctors who went on leave have not been receiving salaries all these years. Within the state medical circles, a suspension is as good as being fired. The doctor will not be allowed to work in public hospitals, however their medical license is not cancelled and they remain free for private practice.

On why it’s taken the state this long to move for suspension, a senior professor from JJ Hospital said that the procedure is an extensively long process, which is why the seats have remained vacant at JJ. “When a doctor who has a designation of professor, assistant professor or associate professor, terminating them from office isn’t an easy task. They are sent repeated reminders. It’s after several reminders go unheeded that a DE finalises their suspension,” said the doctor.

Dr Sagar Mundada, president of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) said that the blockage of seats and delay of the state medical education department is a bane for the resident doctors across the state. “Professors, assistant professors and associate professors are the doctors with an experience of more than 15-20 years. It’s unfortunate that doctors who are experienced are behaving in a way that affects students who are deprived of teachers, and patients, who are deprived of experienced clinicians. Also, if these people block posts, how will new doctors get jobs and promotions? Authorities should have taken these steps long back,” said Mundada.

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