An acute shortage of doctors, particularly specialists, has hit health services in the government-run hospitals, including primary health centres (PHC), community health centres (CHC) and district hospitals across Uttar Pradesh.
As many as 5,500 of the sanctioned posts of 16,283 doctors are lying vacant. Plus, 1400 doctors are holding administrative posts in the directorates and districts. To make matters worse, the health department has no clue about the whereabouts of 600 doctors and has termed them missing.
This is the situation when the state government plans to spend around Rs. 4500 crore under the National Rural Health Mission in 2013-14 and has expressed its commitment to providing better facilities in government hospitals with a number of programmes focused on women and children's health.
The shortage of doctors means the patients have to wait for long hours to get examined and run from pillar to post for diagnostic tests.
Curiously, rather than addressing the problem by providing extra personnel to the hospitals, the health department has asked government doctors to maintain an OPD register and daily diary of the patients examined by them.
So much importance has been attached to this task that the release of salary has been linked with filling up of the dairy and submitting it to the controlling authority by the fifth of every month.
But the order has failed to improve the functioning of hospitals and more ICUs are likely to close down in various districts in the coming days.
"Rather than getting to the root of the problem and addressing it, the health department is trying to intimidate doctors," Dr Ashok Kumar Yadav, president of the Provincial Medical Services Association (PMSA).
Yadav also says the doctors are not shying away from duty as projected by the officials. Rather, the shortage of doctors and para-medical staffs is at the root of breakdown of health services.
There are only two neuro-surgeons in the state with a population of 20 crore.
The state needs 20,000 specialist doctors according to the norms of the Indian Public Health Standard (IPHS), but has only 3,700 of them.
The government hospitals have 100 dentists, 350 surgeons, 170 radiologists, 450 gyanecologists, 325 anesthetists, 26 cardiologists, 67 skin specialists, 170 pathologist and 185 chest physician. The primary health centres require 7,000 doctors but have only 3,693 of them.
Talking to HT, health and family welfare minister Ahmed Hasan said the health department had sent a proposal to UP Public Service Commission for recruitment of doctors.
To attract the specialist doctors with MD/MS qualification, the state government was also planning to make a separate specialist cadre.