No excuse, doctors have to serve in far-off areas

JK Govt preparing list * Delinquent medicos may lose service benefits, officials say

With an aim to provide better health-care facilities to people in J&K’s far-off and inaccessible areas, the Government is preparing a list of doctors who have to serve in such places ‘compulsorily’ for at least seven years, Greater Kashmir has learnt.
A senior official in the Health department said the list is being prepared ‘on priority.’ “In case any doctor refuses to join the assigned posting, he would be denied service benefits at the time of his retirement,” the official, wishing anonymity, said.
He said the Health department has renewed its focus on boosting rural healthcare in the State “to better serve” the people there. 
The official said the fresh move was necessitated in the wake of recurring complaints that “our endeavor of quality healthcare at doorsteps of people” was proving to be a damp squib. Also, he said, there were recurring complaints from far-flung areas about poor health-care and non-availability of medicos. “The fresh measures to be taken would decrease referral cases, thereby easing the burden on Srinagar hospitals,” the official said. 
He disclosed that Department was also making a list of doctors who have not served in rural areas as of now. “While that exercise is on, strict instructions have been already passed on to post such medicos in rural areas as soon as possible,” he said. 
The Health department is also mulling enhanced monetary benefits for doctors serving in remote and rural areas. 
“Like the city compensatory allowance, which is 25 percent of the basic salary, there would most probably be a rural compensatory allowance as well and the department is working on that,” he said.
At the same time, the official said, the district hospitals are being provided with machinery, equipment and specialized manpower so that their services are improved and brought at par with the state’s tertiary-care health institutions.
The official admitted that Kashmir hospitals are running short of nearly 700 doctors with many doctors absent from their duties “illegally” for the past several years. “We are time and again trying to increase the number of doctors in hospitals. It is unfortunate that whenever the doctors get their joining orders, they prefer Srinagar and other urban areas to remote areas. Therefore, this problem is badly affecting healthcare deliverance there and we are consequently trying to address it,” the official said.
Minister of Health and Medical Education, Taj Mohiuddin told Greater Kashmir that it is in the law that doctors have to serve in rural areas. “They have to serve in remote areas at any cost,” he said, adding, “Refusal for the same by any doctor will land him in trouble.”

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