Rural medical officers (RMOs) of Punjab have threatened to go on strike in protest against the state health and family welfare department's decision to put off counselling for the post-graduation (PG) quota.
Dr Aslam Parvez, president of the Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA), Punjab, said if the department did not announce the counselling date at the earliest, RMOs would be forced to proceed on strike.
"The strike by RMOs will have an adverse effect on rural health services, which have already been hit due to the strike by pharmacists and Class-4 workers in subsidiary health centres of the state," said Dr Deepika Puri, who is posted in a rural dispensary in Ludhiana district.
She alleged that principal secretary, health, Vini Mahajan was frequently changing rules to prevent doctors working in the rural development department from getting benefit of PG courses.
In a demi-official (DO) letter (HT has a copy) dated June 18, sent to Dr SS Gill, vice-chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), Faridkot, Mahajan asked the V-C to postpone the date of counselling for government in-service 60% PG quota seats. The health secretary cited relaxation of conditions for Punjab Civil medical Service (PCMS) doctors so that more PCMS doctors can get admissions.
Last week, the V-C had stated that counselling had been postponed only for categorisation of subsidiary health centres and getting service records of RMOs who had been permitted by the Punjab and Haryana high court for availing benefit for higher qualification in government medical colleges of the state.
"Earlier, no relaxation was given to PCMS doctors even after opposition from various quarters, but now when the high court has given orders in favour of RMOs on eligibility for PG quota counselling, the government has changed the criteria at the last moment to harm interests of RMOs working under zila parishads," said Dr Vikas Sood, Fatehgarh Sahib district unit head of the RMSA, Punjab.
When contacted, Mahajan stated that as per the mandate of doctors employed in the department of rural development and panchayats, they could only provide primary health services. "There is no infrastructure in rural dispensaries to provide secondary and tertiary health services. It's not about the health department versus the rural development and panchayat department; it's about logical functioning. The health department has infrastructure for secondary and tertiary healthcare. That is why doctors working under this department are eligible for the PG quota in medical colleges," Mahajan added.