Two hundred and twenty nine government doctors have gone ‘missing’ in Rajasthan, compounding the acute shortage of physicians in the state which is grappling with a 27% deficiency of its allotted strength.
These doctors, appointed as medical officers, have not reported to work for more than a month.
According to the Rajasthan Service Rules, if a government employee is absent from work for more than a year, he or she can be removed. The medical and health department has so far removed 13 ‘missing’ doctors. These are not part of the new pack of 229.
The number of missing doctors was 269 until a few months ago. Thirteen were removed, 16 applied for rejoining, four resigned and seven have been sent show-cause notices.
There are 11,121 posts of medical officers – MBBS doctors – in Rajasthan. Out of this number, 3,025 posts are vacant. The government has selected 684 new doctors and the appointment is under process. This will bring down the vacancy to 2,377. The medical officers are posted at health sub centres, primary health centres (PHCs), community health centres (CHCs) and district hospitals.
The state has 14,407 sub centres, 2,079 PHCs, 52 urban PHCs, 579 CHCs and 32 district hospitals.
Dr VK Mathur, director public health, said, “The bigger problem with missing doctors is we cannot appoint new doctors in their place lest they should turn up before their services are terminated.”
Under section 84(3), a government employee, including doctors, was removed if he/she was missing for four years but this rule was later amended to one year.
An official of the department, who didn’t want to be named, said most medical officers go missing to prepare for admission to postgraduate courses. “If they pass and get a branch of their choice, they quit, otherwise, they report back to work with a leave application,” he said.
The government is lenient about taking back such doctors because of the huge vacancies but the medical officers lose out on increments and promotions.