The Punjab health department has issued showcause notices to at least 10 doctors who have been absent from government duty for the past several years. A final inquiry has also been initiated against them, a step that could lead to their dismissal.
The action was taken after the HT report, 'Govt doctors play truant' (May 26), highlighted that at least 112 such doctors were 'missing' from government hospitals across Punjab - some of them for the past more than five years. The report had mentioned that red tape, legal tangles and political 'connections' had delayed punitive action against a majority of the absentee doctors, while many such cases were not even pointed out at the level of the civil surgeon or the senior medical officer.
The department started marking an inquiry against absentee doctors in the first week of June. A three-month deadline has been set for the completion of the probe, which is being conducted under Rule 8 of the service rules by a panel of retired IAS officers. As per Rule 8, a government employee can face dismissal if the inquiry officer finds him or her guilty of any misconduct.
Confirming the development, Vini Mahajan, principal secretary, health, Punjab, told HT that notices had been sent to several erring doctors for being absent from duty beyond their sanctioned leave.
The list of absentees against whom the action has been initiated are medical officers Dr Amarveer Cheema from Samana (absent from duty since November 2006), Dr Raminderjit Kaur from Malout (absent since February 2008), Dr Sanjeev Kumar from Samana (absent since March 2010), Dr Jagpal Singh from Anandpur Sahib (absent since January 2010), Dr Ravi Pal from Pathankot (absent since December 2009). Notices have also been issued to Dr Kamaljit Singh (Mohali) and Dr Chetan Nanda (Fetehgarh Churian).
When asked why the department was zeroing in on a few doctors when there were 112 such cases, Mahajan said, "This is just the beginning. We are issuing notices turn by turn after closely monitoring the cases at the directorate level," she said. The list of all absentee doctors is available on the department website
The principal secretary has also asked the directorate of health to inquire into the role of civil surgeons and other senior health officials who were either shielding absentee doctors or sweeping such cases under the carpet. Chief parliamentary secretary, health, Navjot Kaur Sidhu had raised the matter of absentee doctors at a press conference recently.