68 absconding docs posted in rural areas demand transfers

Sixty eight of the 99 doctors who did not report to work at their rural postings in the state have suddenly surfaced, and have sent applications to the Directorate of Health Services for transfers to more convenient locations. 

These request letters have been pouring in over the last ten days at the DHS, ever since it issued a notice in the newspapers warning that those doctors who had not reported for rural duty would soon lose their licenses. 

"We forwarded the 68 applications to the chief secretary and he has agreed to entertain only those doctors who have asked for a transfer to another rural area," said the DHS head Dr Satish Pawar. He said many doctors had sought postings nearer their native towns or closer to their spouse's town/city. 

This year, the state posted 255 doctors in rural areas across Maharashtra. Of these, 119 have reported for duty at the hospitals assigned to them; 37 opted out of their opted for further studies after agreeing to do their rural stints after their courses. 

The DHS declared the 99 remaining doctors as absconding and issued notices ordering collectors to recover a fine from them or attach property belonging to them or their parents. 

"We have set a three-week deadline for cancelling the licences of doctors who have not reported for duty so far. They can put forward their case after resuming duty," said Dr Pawar. Once their licenses are cancelled, the doctors will not be able to practise anywhere. 

There is a severe dearth of medical hands in rurul areas; at present, 1300 out of the 3000 posts for doctors in rural Maharashtra are lying vacant resulting in a massive collapse of public health services. 

"There is no harm in considering, to some extent, the doctors' convenience as long as they are asking for transfers to another rural set-up. We will try to give the doctors the area of their choice though it is not possible to satisfy everyone's requests, said Dr Pawar. How strong a doctor's reason is for requesting a transfer out of a tribal to another tribal/non-tribal area would decide whether his or her choice is granted. Many doctors, he says, have asked for non-tribal area postings so that they can pursue private practice after duty hours. 

The one-year rural stint for medicos has a two-pronged approach- one, the medical students repay the state for the subsidised education they received at state medical colleges; two, the young doctors can fill in for the shortfall of trained doctors in rural hospitals. 

After the four-and-a-half year MBBS course, a student puts in a year of internship, to be followed by a year of rural posting. However, if the student plans to pursue a postgraduate diploma or a post-graduate degree, the rural posting is postponed by two years and three years, respectively. A doctor wishing to skip time in a rural hospital after acquiring a post-graduate diploma is fined Rs 10 lakh. The cost of shirking village duty after acquiring a post-graduate degree is a steep Rs 50 lakh, and the same after acquiring a super-speciality is Rs 2 crore.

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