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Medical Challenges

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A Doon Medical College Hospital cardiologist some days ago submitted his resignation as he was miffed with having to give preferential treatment to VIPs and VVIPs, in the process neglecting other patients. Considering the fact that this hospital serves the poorest sections of society, such a situation leaves them with no choice in obtaining treatment. While the cardiologist was persuaded to withdraw his resignation, this incident draws attention to a severe crisis at the grassroots delivery of services. Earlier, too, a doctor had resigned from the hospital for similar reasons (having been ill-treated by a high official’s wife) and now serves in a private institution. Yet another doctor quit his job after being beaten up by locals while posted in the hills.

And this is not all. Despite all the tall talk, even the basic equipment needed by specialists to meet their patients’ needs is often not available. And, where there is the new, top of the line equipment available, the required technicians are unavailable, particularly in the higher reaches. There are a number of reasons why doctors, particularly highly qualified ones, are averse to joining government service. Even those who have studied in government medical colleges avoid putting in the years of service they are required to as part of their contract. A major reason is the hierarchical nature of government service that fails to give them the appropriate importance. They can be transferred at some higher-up’s whims and fancies, often to places where they cannot fully utilise their specialised skills. In the private sector, they can serve in the city of their choice and get paid salaries commensurate to their qualifications.

Part of the problem is the piece-meal approach of governments and bureaucrats to providing medical services, simply because there is no holistic policy structure. A ‘good deal’ on obtaining some latest equipment, for which funds can become available under some scheme, is immediately grabbed irrespective of whether the system is in any way prepared to utilise it.

Even when it comes to availability of doctors, there are vested interests ensuring the supply does not meet the demand. There are some valid reasons, say, for not recognising degrees from a number of foreign countries, but adopting a close-minded approach to the problem is not the solution. It is only now that the institutions concerned are trying to address such issues, but shortages are likely to continue in the near future. It is important, therefore, that the urgency is recognised by the highest authorities, particularly in a state like Uttarakhand, and an innovative and practical policy formulated.