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Proposal to end NPA to save funds sends Punjab health dept into tizzy

PCMS association fumes over move; health minister claims ignorance of the proposal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Ravinder Vasudeva, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON JAN 03, 2020 11:10 PM IST

A proposal mooted by finance department to stop paying non-practicing allowance (NPA) to doctors working in Punjab civil medical services cadre has sent the health department into a tizzy.

Denying any knowledge of the issue, the health and family welfare minister Balbir Sidhu has called an urgent meeting of senior officials of the department on Saturday to discuss the proposal, which as per finance department claim will likely save the department Rs 150 crores.

“I have no idea at all about any such proposal. I got to know of it through the media only. I have called my department officials to brief me on the issue. How can NPA be stopped? I don’t know,” said the health minister.

Sidhu, it is learnt, was ‘upset’ that such proposals are being prepared without taking the concerned ministry into confidence and without discussing its pros and cons. The proposal is part of suggestions being discussed at the higher level to bring the state finances in control. An official of finance department said that the final decision in this regard is yet to be taken.

As per information, the finance department claims that by stopping NPA payments, it will save atleast Rs 150 crores per year, and the step is being taken because the department’s coffers have run dry.

However, senior functionaries of the department contacted by HT are not as optimistic, as they say that stopping NPA would mean that doctors will be free to practice privately after their duty timings.

The proposal says that those who don’t have the place to open a private practice after office hours would have the option to use government premises where they are posted. In such a case, doctors will have to share 50% of their income with the government, according to the proposal.

Meanwhile, the PCMS association has strongly objected to this proposal. “Allowing a private practice at the hospital campus will only burden the poor masses of the state. Also, it will be a step towards privatisation of the health services across the state,” said state president of PCMS association Dr Gagandeep Singh.

The doctors also said the NPA is misnomer as it is given to doctors for their lengthy medical education due to which they get government jobs at a late age. “Also, they engage in tough ad high risk duties such as emergency duty, VIP duty and postmortem duties etc,” the association said.

The association said that allowance of private practices will cause a setback to on call emergency specialty services. The mother and child health services will be the worst hit as doctors will not prefer to respond to on call specialty care duty. The state is already facing a crunch of specialist doctors and it will further deepen the crisis, Dr Gagandeep Singh said.

Organising secretary Dr Indervir Singh Gill said that most government doctors are dedicated to government services and it will be setback to them. “Those who have served the department for 20-25 years and have never had a private practice, will have no choice but to resign and this will cripple public sector health services across the state,” Gill said.

The PCMSA is said to be shortly meeting Punjab health minister on the issue to raise concerns on the move.

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