No one wants to be a Special Medical Consultant

Despite concessions and lucrative perks, 133 out of 230 posts for Special Medical Consultants or SMCs remain empty in hospitals

The ambitious plan of the BMC to address the acute shortage of doctors at 18 peripheral hospitals has fallen flat on its face. Of 217 vacancies for Special Medical Consultants (SMCs), a post with Rs 75,000 as monthly honorarium, only 84 have been filled.

The information, revealed a response to an RTI query accessed by SUNDAY mid-day, shows that important departments such as pediatrics, gynecology and obstetrics, surgery and anesthesia, have barely managed to fill the vacancies. Medicine, one of the most important departments, given the alarming outbreak of swine flu and dengue in 2015, has managed to fill only two out of 53 slots. Despite the permission to pursue private practice after working hours, candidates refuse to take up the post.

Dr Jayesh Lele, president of the Indian Medical Association (Maharashtra), pointed out that R75,000 honorarium is low compared to what’s offered at private hospitals. “There are documentation and clerical hassles, patient overload, lack of resources and medicines that doctors in the civic sector struggle with. This discourages them,” said Lele. He added that if the BMC wished to address the issue of staff crunch, it would have to be a better pay master.

In June 2014, the BMC had announced a proposal to recruit 500 SMCs, a newly created post to address the shortage of staff. In its first phase, 230 SMCs were invited through job advertisements released from July 2014 to September 2015. Out of these, 217 were meant for peripheral hospitals and 13 for the critically short-staffed Sewri TB hospital. The criteria for interested applicants was low: post-graduate degree holders from a recognized university or institute with at least one year of professional experience or PG diploma holders with two years of experience. September 15 was the deadline for applications, and recruitments were to be finished in 45 days after that. There were further concessions on age as well. But, not enough. A senior doctor from KEM Hospital revealed that recent attacks on the doctors (such as the one in KEM Hospital this September) could also be why doctors have turned their backs on the offer. “Attacks affect the decision-making power of a doctor and puts him/her under constant threat of being thrashed for something that is beyond his/her control. The private sector provides better security and freedom,” said the specialist.

The president of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Sagar Mundada said that despite the pressure faced by existing doctors due to staff shortage in civic hospitals, it is surprising that there are few takers. “In secondary medical care centers in distant villages, the displeasure of doctors can be because of the lack of infrastructure. However, in a city like Mumbai, the poor response is surprising.”

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