More than half of the posts for doctors in the state health department are lying vacant, making health facilities out of reach for those in rural areas and affecting the implementation of projects in the state.
According to the Government Health Officers' Federation, of the 1,468 posts of doctors in the state health department across regional, district and sub-district hospitals, 882 are vacant.
For the past four years, the headquarters of the state health department, the Directorate of Health Services (DHS), does not have a permanent director. “The shortage of doctors is across all positions. If the posts of director, additional and joint directors are vacant, the decision making is delayed, which affects implementation of new projects,” said a senior official from the department.
The health department is entrusted with the implementation of various central government schemes for mothers and children, apart from the National Rural Health Mission and blindness control program.
“Manpower is needed to implement such schemes at the state level. The recent revelation of the skewed sex ratio can be related to the ineffective implementation of Pre-Conception Pre-Natal Diagnostic Technique Act, which disallows sex selection,” said an official from health department.
In December, the federation submitted a proposal to the health department urging that the retirement age be raised from 58 years to 62 years. “Other states have already increased the age of retirement and Maharashtra needs to follow suit as there are vacancies at all levels,” said Dr Arjun Wangikar from the federation.
Sources at the health department said the government was not recruiting doctors on regular intervals. “Many doctors have left the job because of lack of opportunities. Sometimes the transfers are arbitrary,” said Dr Ulhas Vasave, former employee of the state health department, who resigned in January after his request to pursue a post-graduate course went unheard.