The strike called by the Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Association early this week could not succeed as majority of the doctors knew they were on a weak footing for being concentrated only in a few pockets, depriving a large number of people of medical care.
The state has a sanctioned strength of 4,100 PCMS doctors of which 700 vacancies have not been filled. The remaining 3,400 doctors are required to attend to administrative work as well as to patients in 22 district hospitals, 41 sub-district hospitals, 151 community health centres, 446 primary health centres and a large number of dispensaries, ESIs and sub-centres.
Successive governments in the state have been politicising the transfers of doctors and the favourites invariably managed to get districts of their choice leaving a large number of far-off areas in the state, especially the rural areas, in neglect.
Of the total 523 doctors who went on strike, as many as 250 orthopaedicians, gynaecologists, radiologists, paediatricians, anaesthetists, eye-specialists, dermatologists and pathologists, including biochemists and microbiologists, were serving at non-sanctioned posts.
According to health minister Madan Mohan Mittal, there was need to rationalise the medical services of specialists in Punjab. "The transfers were not meant to punish anyone. Our aim was to provide health in the entire state," said Mittal.
Punjab PCMS Association president Dr Hardeep Singh admitted that the transfers were initiated to ensure the services of specialists at right places. However, he did not say that the strike was uncalled for. "It happened as the government was unable to communicate to the doctors the real motive behind the mass transfer," said Dr Hardeep.
Enquiries made by HT revealed that of the 60 paediatricians available with the state government, 18 were posted in Mohali and Ludhiana areas till recently. Many of them were posted in dispensaries where the post of specialists does not exist. Ferozepur being a border district did not have even a single paediatrician at the district civil hospital.
Of the 251 sanctioned posts of gynaecologists, only 132 doctors were available. They were largely concentrated in Ludhiana, Mohali, Patiala and Amritsar.
Among the anaesthetists, of the total 125 sanctioned posts, only 77 were available. While they were in excess in Ludhiana and Jalandhar districts; in Mansa, there was only one against the six sanctioned posts. In Sangrur and Muktsar, there was only one anaesthetist each against the sanctioned posts of eight and seven, respectively.
Against the 64 sanctioned posts of radiologists, only 21 are available. In Barnala, Faridkot, Ferozepur, Mansa and Muktsar, there was no radiologist.
Among the pathologists, of the 88 sanctioned posts only 53 are available. The district hospital in Muktsar had no pathologist, Tarn Taran had one against the three sanctioned; Faridkot, Barnala and Bathinda had one each against the sanctioned three, two and six posts of pathologists, respectively.
Radiologist Dr Renu Singla posted at the office of the civil surgeon in Ferozepur, which is an administrative wing, was asked to do duty in the district civil hospital for three days a week.
Paediatrician Dr Puneet Juneja, posted at Anti-Retro Viral therapy centre at Ludhiana, was transferred to the sub-district hospital at Phillaur, 20 km away.
Anaesthetist Dr Mandeep Kaur, posted at ESI dispensary, Phagwara, was transferred to ESI hospital, Phagwara.
Gynaeocologist Dr Deepak Gupta was transferred from Barnala district hospital to the community health centre, Dhanola.
Biochemist Dr Harpreet Kaur, posted at Dhiru Ki Majri, was transferred to Nabha hospital, 25 km away.
Doctors' association leadership to face heat for calling off strike
Chandigarh: Following calling off the strike abruptly on the issue of mass transfer of doctors, top leadership of the Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Association is likely to face the heat.
Sources in the association said the top leadership of the association is facing the heat from the cadre on calling off the strike abruptly on the first day of the two-day strike.
The association has now called a review meeting on June 23.
Association patron Dr RS Buttar said it was a collective decision of the association to form a five-member negotiation committee to hold talks with the state government. However, when it came to discussing the matter with the government, all members of the committee were not taken into confidence and the strike was called off.
Sources in the association have not ruled out a change in the top leadership at the June 23 meeting.
Association president Dr Hardeep Singh said, "If a member has a problem with calling off the strike, he may send it to us in writing. Then we will act accordingly."
However, he expressed ignorance over any review meeting.