More than 70% doctors in the Union Territory's health department have overstayed their maximum deputation period of five years. Many of these have the backing of politicians and bureaucrats.
As per information obtained by Hindustan Times under the Right to Information Act, 83 doctors have overstayed their tenure out of the total 115 doctors, who are on deputation in the UT from Punjab and Haryana. Many of these are working on deputation in UT for over two decades.
The information provided by the UT health department reveals that when it comes to managing stay in Chandigarh, Dr Vimla Aggarwal, a medical officer, who is on deputation from Punjab for nearly 29 years, is leading the pack. She is followed by Dr Paramjit Singh, who has spent almost the same period in the UT, and on number three is deputy medical superintendent Dr G Dewan, who is here for the past around 27 years. These doctors have rarely served their parent state, Punjab.
Similarly from Haryana, Dr Sanjay Singla, Dr Deepak Bakshi and Dr Satbir Singh are posted in Chandigarh on deputation for the past nearly 22 years each. Dr Satbir Singh is son of former Punjab director general of police Choudhary Sube Singh. Interestingly, none of them has served in their home state for more than five years.
Among the doctors, there are some who came to Chandigarh on deputation just after completing their probation period in their home states and are now nearing retirement.
The doctors are so keen to stay in Chandigarh that in 2009, Dr Swami Das Mehta, a dermatologist posted in Government Multi-Specialty Hospital, Sector 16, was promoted to senior medical officer from medical officer by the Punjab government and was transferred to Mansa. He, however, managed to stay in Chandigarh. Dr Mehta joined Punjab health services on February 6, 1985, and has been posted in Chandigarh since 1997.
Sources in the UT health department say many doctors, who are keen to stay in Chandigarh are being driven by vested interests. Some of them are running pharmaceutical companies in the name of their relatives and friends, and are "prescribing" only those medicines to patients.
As of now, 69 doctors from Punjab and 44 from Haryana are on deputation in Chandigarh. As per the
Punjab Reorganisation Act, 1966, doctors in Chandigarh are posted in 60:40 ratio by Punjab and Haryana and as per service rules, their on-deputation tenure is fixed for five years.
The issue of overstay was raised in the past too. In 2009, raising the issue of overstay of doctors on deputation in Chandigarh, former Punjab health minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla had taken up the matter with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and had also written to the UT administration to relieve at least 10 doctors, who had been serving on deputation in the city for over two decades. But using their political influence again, doctors managed to stay in Chandigarh.
Attempts to contact UT home-cum-health secretary Anil Kumar went futile, as he didn't take repeated calls. However, health services director Chander Mohan said there is an acute shortage of doctors. "We have asked both Punjab and Haryana to send a panel to fill 16 posts, but we couldn't get doctors. Doctors working in the UT are quite senior and it is not possible to get specialists and doctors of that level.