A recently-advertised notification for filling up posts of medical officers to end doctors' shortage in rural areas does not mention the place of posting and timeframe for reporting to duties. This, experts believe, could hamper in the key purpose of ensuring the selected candidates are available to work in remote areas at the earliest.
The government recently advertised 1000 posts of medical officers in health and family welfare department, doing away with interviews in order to ensure recruitment is completed on a fast-track basis. Instead, a written test "on pattern of NEET PG" will be implemented for the first time to hire doctors.
The amendment was introduced to "speed up" the process of recruitment and ensure that doctors become available for far-flung and peripheral areas "as soon as possible" to improve access to healthcare.
However, a senior official in the health department expressed reservations that even after amending recruitment procedure, non-availability of newly-appointed doctors in remote areas might persist.
The official said that the government had announced that it would bring a law to ensure that a doctor joins his/her place of posting immediately after his selection. It would have addressed the dearth of human resource in peripheries as it has been observed that in many cases a newly-selected doctor kept the post blocked for years without serving in the area.
"It was proposed that if a medico selected is engaged somewhere else, for training or deputation, he/she would need to choose between his current engagement and the new job. This was the law that was proposed," the official said. "But it was shocking to find there was no mention of this clause in the notification for the advertised posts for medical officers."
Another official said that given the history of recruitment of medical officers in the recent past, the government had assured to implement a clause of existing law to ensure that a newly-recruited doctor serves in the peripheral and far-flung area for at least five years. "Even that has been given a miss for unknown reason," the official said.
In January this year, 371 medical officers had been recruited by the health department to serve in far-flung areas. However, out of this lot, less than 100 doctors joined, the rest being engaged in post-graduation or other activities.
A health department official said it was "extremely difficult" to ensure an adequate presence of doctors in remote areas.
"The fact that a sizeable proportion of our human resource meant for peripheral areas is posted in Srinagar, where there already is a good network of tertiary care hospitals, speaks volumes about the problem," he said.
Commissioner secretary health and medical education AtalDulloo said the law to bar newly-recruited doctors from continuing at their already positions of engagement was "ready".
"At the time of selection it would be communicated to them," he said.
He added the government was working on implementing transfer policy in health and medical education department in "letter and spirit". "That would ensure that they (fresh recruits) serve in under-served areas for at least five years," he said.