MUST THE DOCTORS OF ORISSA HAVE GODFATHERS?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Health hazard afflicts the health department of Orissa to no reprieve. The present health minister Prasanna Acharya has made it so worse that the Doctors who have no godfather in the minister’s proximity are unable to escape harassment.

Notification No.7027 of Health and Family Welfare Department issued on March 18, 2010 is an indicator to this.

Doctors in the Class-I Junior Branch of Orissa Medical Service, who had come to this echelon after putting up about three decades long service, have been promoted en-masse to Class-I Senior Branch on adhoc basis vide Notification No.2465/H, dated January 30, 2010. This Notification of March 18 is the Notification of their posting.

There was no problem in notifying their posting in the order of their promotion on January 30. But that was not to be, as on the anvil, grease was required to shape up the posting order and hence it took time till March 18.

Grapevine in the secretariat was loaded with insinuations matching sudden rise of parking of cars carrying the stickers of logo of the Indian Medical Council that Doctors in Orissa have almost replaced the Red Cross with, in the early mornings and evenings in front of and/or around the residences of a senior class-I officer and a senior Class-III employee of the Health department. These two were emitting the impression that they were the men on whom the minister relies upon to decide as to who of the Doctors would be posted in which of the hospitals.

We in these pages, on February 22, 2010, had captioned the syndrome as “Western Syndicate Shrouds over Orissa Health Service Sector” wherein the following observations were made:

Transfer and posting in health department is a syndrome that often looks like scams. It is open knowledge that there are Doctors who cultivate their posting to lucrative positions or continuance in the capital city for decades when true-to-the profession-persons are shunted out into remote locations to perish for their honesty.

With such experience, when the Doctors on promotion to senior class-I rank are in natural anxiety about their postings, two bureaucrats, one, an Additional Secretary and the other, an assistant in the health department are marked to have given the impression to aspirants that they are the persons that enjoy the confidence of the minister in preparing and finalizing the transfer list. These two belong to the western part of Orissa from where the Minister comes and are conspicuous by their absence on their respective desks as even the attendants say that they are closeted with the minister in finalization of the transfer list. One of these two belongs to Sonepur when the other hails from Bargarh.

The nexus seems unholy, because a minister is not normally expected to pick up persons only of his locality as dependable ones.

Observing thus, we had urged upon the Chief Minister to “take note of it and collect intelligence on whether or not such a regional combine is playing the tricks”.

As the CM, inadvertently or willfully, failed to pay attention to the scam portended, the Notification of March 18 has come out in conformity to apprehensions that fixation of medical officers’ posts has become the norm of administration in the health department.

The minister a few days ago had asserted that history of posting would form the basis of transfer of Doctors to ensure that none of them continue in lucrative stations at the cost of Doctors who have spent good many numbers of years in remote and difficult terraces. What made the same minister take a u-turn and make the Notification dated March 18 by allowing many a Doctors to continue in their pre-promotion lucrative stations and even posting impressive portions of them with adjustment in higher post in their respective stations to ensure that they are not hit by change of place while whosoever had no access to the western syndicate or no aptitude to grease the palms of the godfathers are transferred to disadvantageous remote locations in stark disregard to massive number of years they had spent in those areas, is a matter of easy assumption.

The Orissa Medical Association, the trade union of Doctors in Orissa, has been playing havoc with the lives of patients by brandishing and executing cease-work agitations time and again in order to exhibit the bargaining prowess of its leaders. But, sadly, it has never thought it prudent to harp on adoption of and adherence to any principle of transfer of Doctors that should have saved the physicians committed to professional ethics from disillusionment and from the embarrassment of crawling before the minister or the mandarins in the Secretariat – who are there because these academic jewels had preferred to be Doctors – in a hope against hope to elk out a manageable posting.

This is a sad situation.

And, it is a situation the Chief Minister should look into as the chief executive of the state.

The CM should review the Notifications of March 18 and juxtapose the postings of doctors against their respective histories of postings. If he does this, I am sure; he can know how manipulations are nakedly materialized in the instant chain of transfers. He should take his minister of health to task for having produced such a bad order of transfer that hits the committed doctors’ community while helping the manipulators keep their respective pre-promotion stations under their grip.

Government Doctors’ dependence on godfathers for comfort is the most discomforting hazard that Orissa now stands face to face.

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