COVID-19: Frontline doctors not paid for three months now

Updated: 02 October, 2020 11:57 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

Many private practioners who voluntarily responded to the government's plea have not got their remuneration since June

Staff at Oberoi Garden City being tested. PIC/Satej Shinde
Staff at Oberoi Garden City being tested. PIC/Satej Shinde

With no salary for the past three months, doctors in the frontline fight against COVID-19 have been left in the lurch. Over 450 doctors across the country have also lost their lives while fighting the pandemic. Many had voluntarily offered their services. Fed up of the government apathy towards them, some have resigned. 

A senior physician from Thane, whose services were availed to supervise COVID Centres, had to resign on September 30 as she was not paid for the past three months.

Dr Shailaja Pillai, 61, a practicing MD, was hired by the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) for being an on call expert to treat serious patients in their designated centres on a monthly remuneration of Rs 1 lakh. She also has not received her contract extension letter.

Dr Shailaja Pillai, hired by TMC as an on-call expert
Dr Shailaja Pillai, hired by TMC as an on-call expert

Speaking to mid-day, Dr Pillai said, "My services were hired from April 17 to June 30. I continued to work and even took directives from the administrative  officer, but to my surprise, even after waiting for three months and verbal assurances from the concerned authorities on my salary and extension letter from the administrative officer, I did not get either. This is unfair, especially when my appointment for the post was even talked about and appreciated by the TMC commissioner in local media."

Pillai added, "I have worked for my passion and had cordial relations with all the RMOs. The least they (TMC) could have done is to tell me outright that they do not intend to extend my services in the month of June itself, instead of compelling me to resign after three months."

When contacted, Dr Charudatta Shinde, Medical Officer Health, Thane said, "I am not handling Thane and have been relieved from there."

Attempts made to contact Additional Municipal Commissioner, Ganesh Deshmukh, who is in-charge of handling COVID-19 in Thane, did not yield any result.

Situation same in country

The situation is the same for most doctors across the country. Dr Asit Khanna, a senior cardiologist from Ghaziabad said, "It is extremely demoralizing and demotivating if a doctor can't provide for his family in these hard times. Denial of salary is denial of a basic right. Administrative apathy  is consuming doctors' lives and as well as those of their families."

Dr Vedprakash Mishra, national head, Academic Programme (UNESCO)
Dr Vedprakash Mishra, national head, Academic Programme (UNESCO)

Dr Vedprakash Mishra, national head of the Academic Programme (Indian Programme), UNESCO chair in Bioethics (Haifa), from Wardha said, "It is said that 'An Army moves on its stomach'. No battle can be fought where the Army has an empty stomach. Lip sympathies do not suffice in such situations. These are times when the risk coverage ought to have been granted over and above the regular salary."

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, senior allergy and asthma specialist, said "These doctors have shut their clinics and private practices for COVID duty in response to the government's request. It is shocking, that the governments, both state and centre, have failed to pay them their dues. Doctors working in COVID Centres have four times the mortality rate of the general population."

Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor of surgery at DY Patil medical college, said, "In the current scenario, every practicing doctor, and health care staff is a front line warrior. They have to ensure adequate remuneration and health insurance for them. This will undoubtedly boost their morale."

'Protest to be intensified'

Amarinder S Malhi, former president, Resident Doctors’ Association, AIIMS
Amarinder S Malhi, former president, Resident Doctors’ Association, AIIMS

For the past 108 days (since June 15) doctors on COVID duty at Hindurao hospital in North Delhi have been protesting against nonpayment of their salary. The North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) runs health care establishments in eight of the districts of Delhi. Dr Amarinder S Malhi, former president, Resident Doctors' Association, AIIMS, Delhi said, "The North MCD employs at least 1,000 senior doctors, 500 resident doctors, and 1,500 nursing officers, and most of the staffers here are not paid since June 15, 2020. North MCD Mayor Jai Prakash had assured the agitating doctors that he will hold a meeting with them and healthcare workers to sort out the issue, but did not do so. He said the civic body's finances were deeply affected due to COVID and accused the Delhi government of not paying dues amounting to Rs 1,200 crore. He even claimed to have written to the Delhi and Central health ministry, but said there is no reply. From Monday we will intensify our protest."

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First Published: 02 October, 2020 07:03 IST

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