With the implementation of the specialty/administrative cadres, many vacancies of doctors have cropped up in the district. The Health Department is now trying to re-distribute doctors across various hospitals to manage the staff shortage. This has led to confusion and even senior health officials are not sure where the doctors are posted.
The funds squeeze of National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has not helped either because apart from the 69 doctors it has already deployed to make up for the staff shortage, it can no longer provide additional doctors towards the unfilled vacancies.
The district has 25 posts of specialists and 18 general cadre posts vacant. Instead of filling these vacancies, fresh orders posting or re-posting or shifting doctors are being issued from the Directorate of Health Services.
When the posting order of a doctor is released from the directorate, the office of the district health administration also receives a copy of the same.
But nobody has any clue whether the particular individual has been relieved from his current station or if he has joined the new station.
The District Medical Office (DMO) will have to wait for the ‘CTC' (Charge Transfer Order) from the new place of posting—which could take more than a week—to know if a doctor has joined a station.
“With new posting and shifting orders being issued daily, it is a hopeless situation. Unless the existing vacancies are filled, no amount of shuffling will be enough to see the situation through,” a senior health official said. He said gynaecology and obstetric services had just commenced at the Vizhinjam Community Health Centre (CHC), the only institution in the coastal belt in the district to offer such services. With the lone gynaecologist here moving to the Women and Children Hospital at Thycaud following the specialty cadre implementation, the district health officials had to find a replacement.
The Varkala Taluk Hospital has two gynaecologists. But as the hospital is not conducting any delivery service, the authorities posted one doctor to the Vizhinjam CHC so that the obstetric service there could be continued. This led to loud protests from local politicians in Varkala.
“The NRHM doctors can be posted only in healthcare institutions below the level of taluk hospitals. So we are unable to provide additional staff to make up for the vacancies at Varkala. The institution will have to manage somehow till new doctors are posted,” the official said.
This is easier said than done. All attempts by the health authorities to induct new doctors into the system have failed and the response to the walk-in-interviews conducted in the district recently was miserable, with just 10 persons turning up against 43 vacancies.
Out of the 10 who were given appointment orders, only five joined duty. The Public Service Commission (PSC) does have a list of doctors but the response to interview calls has been poor.
According to Kerala Government Medical Officers Association (KGMOA), six posts of specialists were lying vacant in each of the four taluk hospitals in the district. The KGMOA representatives said that unless new posts were created immediately and the existing vacancies filled, the situation could not be salvaged.