It is not uncommon for people of villages to rush to the nearest primary health centre or community health centre to find the doctor’s seat vacant, or long queues for the only doctor present.
These scenes are symptomatic of an acute shortage of doctors in rural Dakshina Kannada, which adds to the burden of an already fragile rural health care system. In the Belthangady General Hospital, for example, Dr. Adam said he had to work day shift and night shift because of the vacancies there. “Only two doctors work in the hospital, whereas four specialisation posts remain vacant. This increases the work burden on us, and with queues of patients waiting outside, we can’t spend much time with the patient,” he said. He added that shortage of nurses and eight vacancies in Group ‘D’ sees doctors and nurses assuming these roles too.
With doctors unavailable to work full time in the recently-inaugurated PHC in Kulai, Health Department officials have had to depute a doctor from Surathkal for only three days a week in the Centre.
According to the District Health Department, of the 143 sanctioned posts of medical officer, 41 remained vacant here.
The severest vacancies lie in specialised posts — out of 30 posts, 17 were vacant. Similarly, out of 91 posts of general duty medical officer, 67 work while six other posts had to be filled by Ayush workers.
Other vacancies are two posts of programme officer, one post of leprosy centre officer, one post of taluk health officer, and two posts of dentist.
Lack of interest
“There is difficulty in running a centre, primarily due to shortage of doctors. No one is interested in rural postings. Those with an MBBS degree either work in the cities, or go for postgraduate specialisations,” said O.R. Srirangappa, District Health Officer.
Although some Group ‘D’ vacancies had been dealt with through outsourcing, response from doctors for applications to contract posts as well as for permanent posts had been poor, he said.
As an example, he narrated the process to fill 15 GDMO vacancies on contract in January. Only two personsple responded to the call and sent their application. “While one left the job only a month later, the other, an orthopaedic, left to fulfil a three-year compulsory period signed to get a scholarship while he was studying. Currently, these posts remain vacant,” said Mr. Srirangappa.
He added that posts that could be filled by students doing their house surgeon term remain vacant as students do not turn up. More recently, last Monday, five posts on contract were called for. “Only one doctor showed up. There is little we can do if no one is interested to work in rural places,” said Mr. Srirangappa.