Health mandarins got a dose of home truths from the newly appointed Provincial Medical Service doctors serving in rural areas. The doctors unleashed a volley of complaints at a workshop here on Wednesday.
They complained openly about the lack of amenities at their rural posts, prompting the top brass to launch an exercise to placate the disgruntled lot. When the function began at an auditorium on Kanpur Road, little did Health Minister Anant Kumar Mishra and top officials suspect that they would be greeted by a litany of woes. Ironically, the meet was meant to boost the morale of the doctors, who are among those who have completed three months of posting in various districts.
The pep talk was deemed necessary as only 1,457 of the 2349 doctors selected by the UP Public Service Commission (Allahabad) for the Provincial Medical Services (PMS) have joined the service. The event began mundanely enough with Principal Secretary Pradeep Shukla and other top officers of the Health Department on the dais. DG (Medical Health) Dr RR Bharti, too, had no way of knowing what was coming when he began the welcome address and said adequate facility had been provided to the doctors posted in the rural areas.
That comment seemed to have touched a raw nerve. And the doctors spoke out. One of them said there was no arrangement for drinking water at the health centre (PHC) in Pratapgarh district where he was posted. "Daily, I have to trudge two kilometers to fetch potable water. Another doctor said the PHC building in Banda district was in a dilapidated condition.
"There is shortage of drugs at the health centre and we are heckled by patients," said a doctor posted in Ghazipur. A doctor posted in Bahraich said power supply there was erratic.
"Generator sets installed on the premises of the hospital were defunct and the ambulance was inoperative," said another medical man.
After calmly lending an ear to the grievances, Mishra said, "I am the captain of the team and it's my duty to provide better facilities to the doctors." He urged the doctors to desist from joining the private sector.
"Government service will give you recognition," he said.
Health Department officers, too, tried to mollify the doctors. Dr M Matin, additional director, Jhansi, said, "When I was posted in the PMS in 1974, the hospital used to run from a hut. I used to travel by bullock cart and draw water from a well. Sometimes, the water was infested with worms. The government is giving good perks and better facilities to the doctors now."
Dr GK Tripathi, a retired Health Department officer, alleged a majority of the doctors actually wanted to run nursing homes. Director (Health) Dr Sobhnath said there was no recognition in the private sector. "In the PMS, one gets an opportunity to serve humanity. After retirement, a doctor can contest the assembly election and become a minister too," he said. Dr RS Dubey, chief medical superintendent of Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, Lucknow, told the doctors not to lose heart.