The recent advertisement by Punjab Public Service Commission for the appointment of 404 doctors in the health department on the condition of fixed emoluments equal to minimum amount in the pay band without any grade pay or allowances has invited criticism from the rural medical officers (RMOs).
Working under the department of rural development and panchayats, the RMOs said this condition would harm the already deteriorating healthcare system of Punjab in general and the rural healthcare system in particular. "Already there is a shortage of doctors in the villages and with this pay, no new doctor will ever be ready to serve there," said Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA) state president Dr Aslam Parvez, who is also member of the steering committee of the All-India Federation of Government Doctors Associations.
"The advertisement says that of the 404 posts of MBBS doctor, 332 are vacant, while 72 are from the backlog. The notification says that the doctors will be paid a minimum of Rs 15,600 fixed emoluments without any grade pay and allowances for a probation of two years. The rural medical officers say this is not enough pay, said Dr Parvez."
Almost 70% of the state's population is rural but the recent policy decisions of the state government promote only urban health. Earlier, the government had advertised the posts of specialist doctor, saying diploma holders were also eligible for full pay, but specialists did not respond well, since they found better pay and working conditions in the private sector.
RMSA senior vice-president Dr JP Narula said the decision of the government was bad for both doctors and villages.
"All medical associations in the state will have a discussion on the issue to plan out a statewide agitation," he added. Association general secretary Dr Anand Malhotra said the health department had degraded rural health services.
In a letter issued in March 2014, it had stated that the benefit of seat reservation in postgraduate courses, earlier restricted to rural doctors, would also be extended to urban doctors working on emergency duties.