Medical officers in 18 institutes across Maharashtra protest, seek permanent postsUpdated: Oct 19, 2020, 01:20 IST
At a time when Maharashtra government is willing to pay lakhs of rupees to private practitioners for treatment of Covid-19 patients, the medical officers (MO) who are already employed with the state government said that despite working round-the-clock, their demand for permanent posts has fallen on deaf ears. There are 453 MOs across 18 medical colleges in the state who have been renewing their contracts every 120 days for basic employment benefits from the past 10 years.
On October 15, members of the Medical College Medical Officers Association (MCMOA) held a silent protest by wearing black ribbons at the 18 institutes, seeking the status of permanency. They also wrote a letter (a copy of which is with HT) to the Medical Education and Drugs Department (MEDD) on October 14 on their demands. “There are MOs working on these posts for the past eight to 10 years. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, these MOs work day and night to take care of patients and to help in the administration. If the doctors are regularised, there will be no additional financial burdens but the step will help in strengthening the administration of the government hospitals,” reads the letter.
Despite repeated attempts, Saurabh Vijay, secretary, MEDD, did not respond to HT’s calls and messages.
An MO with a south Mumbai hospital that despite working round-the-clock since the Covid-19 outbreak in March, he had to request the hospital twice in seven months to renew his employment contract. With 13 years of experience in medicine, he continues to work as a contractual employee. While his colleagues on permanent payroll receive more than ₹1 lakh a month, his salary has stayed stagnant at ₹65,000 as he is not qualified for increments at par with permanent employees.
After dean and medical superintendents, MOs hold the most important position in hospitals. Along with the administrative work, they are also responsible for medico-legal cases and provide the first line of treatment to emergency patients in casualty wards. MOs also have to handle Covid-19 and non-Covid patients along with VIP duties.
“We don’t have provident funds and pensions as we are on contract. As per rules, we have to stay near our respective hospitals but we are technically not qualified to be lodged in hospital quarters. Every 120 days, we have to request the hospital to renew our contracts, which is quite unfair as we work as much as the permanent employees,” said another MO of the south Mumbai hospital.
The state is paying over ₹1 lakh to private practitioners a month for treating Covid-19 patients in government hospitals but are not paying any heed to the demands of their own employees, owing to which MOs are opting for private practice.
“Many doctors have been waiting for years to get permanent. In the process, several have quit their jobs, leading to a further dearth in the number of doctors, especially in rural areas. And there are some doctors who have waited so long that due to age limitations, they can’t apply anywhere else,” said a MO with Grant Medical College (GMC), Aurangabad.
Until 2010, the health service in the state was run as the department of public medical education. Later, it was bifurcated into public health and medical education departments. Since then, all new MOs who joined in the medical education departments have not been employed permanently.
“All the 18 medical colleges and their attached hospitals are tertiary care medical centres. We get the highest number of patients. So many MOs have contracted Covid-19 infections on duty. Despite working 24.7, we aren’t even qualified for the Seventh Pay Commission,” said another MO from Latur GMC. “I have no option but to join private hospitals,” he added.