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Acute shortage of doctors

Providing adequate health service to the people is not that simple as we think. Medical science has made tremendous development in all branches and the patients want to be given quality treatment, it becomes very difficult to maintain the desired standards that would satisfy the patients and the public.
We have the Jammu Medical College Super Specialty Hospital and other District Hospitals all functional in given circumstances. At the same time the Government has recently announced that five more Medical Colleges will be opened so that our rural areas are not left behind in improving medical services. This is a welcome step and we have appreciated the decision of the Government when the announcement was made. However, it is pertinent to examine what is the ground situation in the existing Jammu Medical College Super Speciality Hospital and other District Hospitals, in terms of availability of teaching faculties. We regret to say that there is acute shortage of physicians, surgeons and other Para medical staff in the district hospitals and in Jammu Medical College and Super Speciality hospital. 128 posts of doctors including, Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors, Lecturers, Registrars, Assistant Surgeons etc are vacant in the Super Specialty Hospital Jammu which has the total sanctioned strength of 187 posts of doctors. Many posts of doctors including Surgeon Specialists, Dermatologists, Physicians, Radiologists, Orthopaedic Surgeons, and Assistant Surgeons etc are lying vacant in district hospitals all over Jammu region. By and large there is 68 per cent shortage of teaching faculty in the Super Speciality Hospital Jammu and almost same percentage shortfall is to be found in District Hospitals.
What needed to be considered is the impact of this shortage on the public health in the region. Over crowded hospitals without qualified doctors makes a mess of things. The main purpose of opening the SS Hospital in the Medical College was to save the patients of the State and Jammu region from the compulsion of taking patients out of the State for treatment at Chandigarh or in New Delhi owing to lack of qualified staff in our medical colleges and hospitals. In the light of such a large scale shortage of teaching faculties the very purpose of opening the SS Hospital is defeated. Now what is more amusing is the announcement of the Government that five more medical colleges will be opened in the region. If the manpower conditions of that college also would be what we have at present, it make no sense whatsoever. Common sense is that before opening new colleges the Department of Health and Medical Sciences should ensure that it is in a position to provide these new institutions with proper equipment and staff. Of course providing equipment is simpler than providing teaching faculty. True, that some more seats have been added to the Medical Colleges in the State with the aim of churning out more doctors to be deployed to fill the vacancies. But that is a lengthy programme and something has to be done to overcome the shortage right now.
Past Governments have tried to resolve some fundamental problems of shortage of doctors but they have not met with any significant success. One major drawback in the system is that qualified doctors are not willing to be posted to far off places and some of them not even to District hospitals because they would not want to lose the comforts of city life and practice. Secondly, the system of requisitioning the services of retired doctors and surgeon within a particular age group could made possible particularly in more affected branches. These would be contractual services and contracts could be renewed after the expiry of the term. The Government may also consider extending the superannuation date of the doctors by two years to reduce the shortage percentage. One more suggestion could be that of contractual employment of doctors from private colleges and nursing homes on part time basis to bridge over the gap. After all, the Government cannot sleep over the present very unsatisfactory situation. Some solution of the problem has to be found on temporary as well as permanent basis. At the same time the Department of Health and Medical Science must give a serious thought to the ground realities that will surge when new five medical colleges are opened. It should not become something farcical that buildings and equipments are there but the faculty is conspicuous by its absence.


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