A Tale of Flip Flops

It is no other usual administrative matter. It is a matter of life and death for the people of the state.

Srinagar, Publish Date: Aug 22 2017 9:46PM | Updated Date: Aug 22 2017 9:46PM

Despite clear court directions and recommendations from government's own recommendatory committees, the Health and Medical Education Department's step of constituting yet another committee to what it calls "implement" its own order regarding ban on private practice by government-hired doctors is difficult to understand. This flip flop must end now. If constitution of the committee is meant for enforcement of the ban, it is somewhat plausible. But then the question must be asked why does the government need to create such bodies instead of relying on enforcement of orders through the use of service conduct rules and the in-built systems of accountability. Private practice of doctors paid by government to work in government hospitals is against the regulations of the Medical Council of India (MCI). Significantly, private practice by government doctors was banned by the state High Court in response to a public interest litigation way back on November 18, 2011. Moreover, a government-constituted legislative committee, which was set up in 2012 to inquire a number of deaths of children at the GB Pant Hospital, Srinagar, also called for complete ban on private practice of all doctors of teaching hospitals. The quality of healthcare in the state's hospitals continues to suffer badly because of the absence of a reliable system wherein doctors could be available for patient care round the clock. In view of the intense pre-occupation with private practice, the mental and physical fatigue associated with attending patients at private clinics, the state's hospitals, including emergencies, are largely run by junior and freshly-graduated doctors. It is incredible that this state does not have a functional state-run cardiac emergencies in hospitals with round-the-clock availability of dedicated cardiologists and other support staff. Key doctors' bodies have themselves held private practice responsible for the dysfunction in government hospitals as well as the quality of teaching in medical colleges. This situation must change because the government pays the doctors handsome salaries and incentives. It is the government's moral responsibility in establishing a system of accountability in hospitals that will ensure availability of doctors to patients as the ban on private practice is diligently implemented. It is no other usual administrative matter; it is a matter of life and death for the people of the state.


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