Shortage of specialised doctors in regional, district and sub-district hospitals is forcing patients from rural areas to go to hospitals in cities, at times even for basic treatment.
“At least 60% of patients come for treatment from rural areas because of unavailability of doctors or equipment,” said a senior doctor from JJ Hospital, Byculla.
On an average, half of the sanctioned posts for paediatricians, gynaecologists, ophthalmologists, and psychiatrists are vacant. “Many children die of pneumonia and diarrhoea, which can be easily treated by specialists,” said a senior doctor at a public hospital.
According to Dr Anant Phadke of Jan Arogya Abhyaan, an umbrella body for various non-profit organisations working for better access to public health, the shortage is higher among upper rungs of the health department.
Officials blamed the common entrance tests. “Five years ago, doctors who already with the health department could give separate examinations for post graduate studies, and start serving as specialist after studies. This does not happen anymore owing to common entrance tests," said a senior health official.
Specialists want to work at government medical colleges where they can pursue academics. “Post graduates don’t find health department jobs lucrative,” said Dr Arjun Wangikar of the government health officer federation.
The state health minister and the health department director were unavailable for comment.