Once much sought after, government jobs seem to be losing their sheen for doctors in Punjab. In the recent recruitment of MBBS doctors under the Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS), at least 40 of the 214 successful candidates have refused to join. A prime reason is the stricter eligibility criterion for serving doctors' quota in post-graduate admissions.
As per the new policy, to be eligible for the 60% in-service quota available in government medical colleges, doctors posted in 'difficult rural areas' will have to serve for six years instead of three, while those serving in 'very difficult rural areas' will have to serve for four years instead of two. The test for the posts was held last year, while the new policy came into force only this July but applies to the final selection made now.
Struggling to fill the posts, the government has now offered jobs to 44 doctors who were earlier in the waiting list. The fresh list was put up on the health department website late last month.
Dr Hardeep Singh, president of the PCMS Doctors' Association, said the government had "snatched away" the reward given for serving in rural areas. "This new eligibility criterion for the in-service quota will hit rural areas badly, as no one will want to serve there for so long," said Dr Gagandeep Shergill, joint secretary of the association.
A successful candidate, who is presently posted with the Haryana Civil Medical Services but has decided not to join the PCMS, echoed the belief: "I had planned that I'd get my posting in a rural area and become eligible for the post-graduate seat in just two years. But the government changed its policy all of a sudden and now wants us to serve for four years, which is too long a time."
Another such candidate - Bathinda-based Dr Sukhpal Singh, currently employed with the rural development department - said admission in a post-graduate course was the main reason why he had appeared for the PCMS job test: "But I might have to work for six years to be eligible for the quota. In such a long time, one gets completely out of touch with academics."
However, Vini Mahajan, principal secretary (health), claimed there was "not much problem": "A few candidates have sought some more time due to their personal reasons. There is some problem in filling reserved category posts. But that's all."