The Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA) of Punjab has opposed the recent categorisation of Subsidiary Health Centres (rural dispensaries) by the health department for considering rural medical officers for 60% postgraduate quota in the state medical colleges.
Terming the decision arbitrary, the association has demanded that the categorisation formula, which is applied to the Punjab Civil Medical Service (PCMS) doctors, be scrapped.
"The categorization of the health institutes is part of the policy to send doctors into rural areas and rationalise postings. It cannot be applied to the doctors working under the department of rural development and panchayats," said Dr Rajesh Sharma, spokesperson of the RMSA, Punjab.
The state health department had made a policy last year to divide all state health institutes into categories A, B, C and D for urban, semi-urban, other difficult, and rural difficult areas, respectively. "As the doctors working under the zila parishads of Punjab are working in rural areas alone and there is no scope of urban or semi-urban postings, the same policy cannot be applied to doctors working in the rural development department," said Dr Anand Malhotra, state general secretary of the association.
In 2006, the health department handed over 1,186 rural dispensaries to various zila parishads. Rural doctors were appointed one in each dispensary then and their services regularised in 2011. Only recently through court orders, the rural medical officers got the benefit of higher qualification of MD/MS, which was opposed by the PCMS doctors; other higher officials in the state health department; research and medical education department; and the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS).
Rural doctors claim that the categorisation has left no scope of transfer in the department of rural development and Panchayats, as they are governed by zila parishads in various districts. All doctors working in Ludhiana, Ropar and Patiala districts are placed in category 'C', where six years of rural service is mandatory. Meanwhile, in districts such as Ferozepur and Mansa, maximum dispensaries are in Category 'D', where four years of rural job is required for claim to any of the 60% quota seats in the MD and MS courses.
Many dispensaries in Amritsar, Tarn Taran, and Moga are in category 'B', which makes the doctors in these dispensaries ineligible for lifetime. Almost 90% dispensaries in Nawanshahar district are in category 'B'.
"The health department is not ready to give the PG-quota seats to rural doctors," said Dr JP Narula, state senior vice-president of the association. "They want all rural doctors to indulge in litigation with each other for the seats and the benefit to go to the doctors working in their department," he added.
The rural doctors want single eligibility policy of four years applied to all rural medical officers for PG seats as they have worked in rural areas throughout their career. They want 5% extra marks for each additional year of rural service after four. They have called a meeting on June 23 to discuss all issues.