The Odisha government has issued notice to as many as 613 doctors, who haven’t reported for duty at various government hospitals in the state for years.
A government run community health centre in the Jajpur district of Odisha has only one paediatrician, Dr Pabitra Pati, and he attends to at least a hundred children in a matter of hours. The hospital has six sanctioned posts for doctors, of which two have been lying vacant for years.
Scenes at government run primary health care centres in interior tribal areas are worse. The state government announced an additional incentive package of up to Rs 80,000 per month to those who served in some of these difficult areas, but not many came forward. Finally, the Odisha government put out a notice in leading newspapers, naming 613 government doctors who have not reported for duty for years, warning severe action.
According to Odisha Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi, "Most of these doctors want posting only at good locations and so they are not going to rural areas. We are improving the living amenities for them and also paying them good incentives. But still things are not improving."
The missing doctors apart, a lot else ails the health landscape of the state. The state has a sanctioned strength of 4842 doctors, of which 589 posts are lying vacant in addition to the 613 doctors who are not reporting for duty. This means that as much as 25 per cent of sanctioned doctors are not available for service.
Making matters worse, there are only three government medical colleges in the state and not a single one has come up in the last 50 years.
The Naveen Patnaik government, which has been in power for the last 15 years, has only now sanctioned five more medical colleges and hospitals. It will be years before doctors pass out and even begin to address the health crisis.