Senior doctors feel medical services will improve only if the ban is implemented effectively with proper infrastructure support

While decks are being cleared to ban private practice by government doctors in Hyderabad and elsewhere, there are doubts if this decision will improve medical services at Government hospitals.

Senior doctors feel that the ban will improve medical services only if implemented well with proper infrastructure support. In fact, many of them also fear that a ban on private practice in semi-urban areas could be counterproductive.

There is an apprehension among experts that banning private practice of doctors in area hospitals, community and primary health centres in rural and semi-urban areas and small towns could be futile.

Private practice is the only ‘carrot’ that attracts speciality doctors to Government hospitals in semi-urban areas, experts argue.

In small towns and villages, typically, a speciality doctor, after working for five years or more in Government hospital, establish their own private practice. Many argue that this custom makes high end medical care accessible to semi-urban and village level population.

“Banning private practice at teaching hospitals in big cities like Kurnool, Warangal, Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam is a good idea to improve medical services at teaching hospitals. This will improve quality of medical education and patient care. But, ban should not be extended to villages and small towns,” feels former member of IMA Dr. C.L. Venkat Rao.

Senior Nephrologist Dr. A. Gopal Kishan, who had spearheaded campaign against the private practice ban in 1984, feels that financially doctors are ‘well-off’ now than two decades ago. While the salaries have improved, the infrastructure deficiencies in Government hospitals continue, he rued.

“In the 80s, Superintendent of Osmania General Hospital (OGH) used to draw a salary of Rs. 12,000 per month. That’s why private practice was necessary. Now, the salary of a Superintendent in a teaching hospital is upwards of Rs. 1 lakh. Even senior doctors get upwards of Rs. 60,000. That’s why they should be honest to their job,” Dr. Gopal Kishan points out.

In addition to providing proper infrastructure support, Dr. Gopal Kishan said that strict punishment on ‘absentee’ doctors should be given.

“Nobody has the courage to take action on erring doctors. If authorities implement the ban on private practice strictly and take action on absentee doctors, situation will definitely improve in few months. It’s a matter of commitment,” he added.