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25 June 2008
Mumbai, India
By Surendra Gangan

The state introduced a policy to motivate super Specialty and renowned doctors to visit patients in rural areas.

Though the remunerations offered do not match the pay scale renowned doctors enjoy, the government is flexible in terms of remuneration, conveyance, and working hours and days.

Though the scheme has been in operation for more than the last six months, over 50% of the posts are still vacant. Only 250 doctors have been appointed on contract basis so far.

Dr Vimal Mundada, public health minister for state, said, “There is a shortage of specialists in the state, which is one reason why the posts are still vacant. However, we have been trying to promote the scheme through medical associations to attract doctors. We are hopeful that we will have more doctors taking up assignments in rural areas in the near future.”

Under the National Rural Health Mission in the state, 171 hospitals identified as Indian Public Health Standards (IPHS) hospitals need medical experts – postgraduates with MS or MD – to maintain the required standards. Surgery, paediatrics, haematology and other specialist categories need one medical practitioner each in every IPHS hospitals.

The doctors, who have their private practices, have been offered visiting consultancy in sub–district and taluka hospitals.

The remuneration varies from centre to centre with the maximum being Rs 15,000 per month. Apart from this, a travelling allowance of Rs5 per km is offered to facilitate travel in rural area. The doctor undertaking such services is expected to visit patients thrice a week.

Joint director of State Health Directorate Dr MV Karnataki said considering the constraints, the response to the scheme had been positive so far. “We have appointed reputed doctors in some IPHS hospitals at sub–district and taluka levels. Though renowned doctors from Mumbai and Pune have not come forward, doctors from cities like Nagpur and Nashik have joined IPHS hospitals. In some cases, they even travel 40 km to attend to the patients.”

“We are flexible as far as remuneration and working hours of these doctors are concerned. This is a scheme to motivate well–known doctors with an urge to serve the society and the poor to spare their valuable time.

“They will get valuable experience in handling critical cases from different socio–economic strata,” said family welfare commissioner Vandana Krishna.

The specialists, apart from fixed remuneration, are offered per patient remunerations on emergency duty. “The visit–based pays sometimes are more than what they earn in private practice,” said Dr Karnataki.

Dr Nitin Mokal, consultant craniofacial & plastic surgeon who has performed over 250 cleft lip surgeries free–of–cost in rural areas, however, said, “The state should also ensure that primary health centers and district hospitals have good infrastructure.”

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