Doctors in Kerala are reportedly compelled to do nonclinical work due to a shortage of staff at the local government bodies. Subsequently, the availability of doctors at the peripheral hospitals for outpatient services has taken a hit.
Doctors at the Family Health Centers are often asked to do administrative work such as review meetings and distribution of aid by the local bodies. This affects their core clinical duties, leading to their nonavailability for outpatient department duties. Eventually, this started to lead to dissatisfaction among the patients.
The doctors say that this has become a common ritual, and the patients have started complaining about the absence of doctors from clinic duties. Unfortunately, the patients are not aware of the real reason behind this scenario.
The local bodies primarily make the doctors check whether the patient is eligible for free dialysis. Thereafter, they must distribute funds to the hospital where the patient has undergone dialysis. Very often, these hospitals are located outside the designated panchayats.
With the onset of the fever season, the number of patients visiting outpatient clinics has increased as well. The health department of Kerala says that approximately 10,000 patients visit fever clinics across the state every day. Till date, 236990 patients have visited the fever clinics. The principal secretary of the health department has issued a directive to refrain doctors from non-clinical duties. But the local government bodies have not paid heed to the directive, citing a manpower shortage.
These doctors have subsequently found support through the Kerala Government Medical Officer’s Association (KGMOA). They have asked its members to stay away from non-clinical work. The KGMOA state president, Dr. T. N. Suresh, informed that the local government bodies used to always have additional manpower during the fever season, but this was revoked recently through an order. He also added that, due to work overload, there was a recent incident wherein a doctor in a Public Health Centre in Vellore fainted due to burnout. Such incidents are reportedly becoming common, he was quoted saying.
The government and the local bodies need to seriously work on a solution to this issue soon so that patients are not deprived of their required treatment.
(Inputs from various sources)
(Rehash/Dr. Sushmita Ganguli)