The Congress government is in a dilemma over the proposal to merge the departments of Medical Education and Health and Family Welfare. The proposal was mooted during the previous government’s tenure to examine the demands of government doctors.

A team of senior officials, including Principal Secretaries of the departments of Health and Family Welfare, Medical Education and Law, met on Wednesday to discuss the issue. Another meeting is scheduled for June 11 after which a report will be submitted to the cabinet subcommittee headed by the Additional Chief Secretary for a final call, official sources in the Health Department said.

“The issue has been brought to the notice of Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and he has asked us to discuss the pros and cons of the merger in detail before submitting the final report. Basically, the services provided by the two departments are for the benefit of patients. While there are various issues such as doctors’ shortage and pay disparities that have to be specifically sorted out, the merger is overall aimed at better accessibility of healthcare to the poor,” the sources said.

Health and Family Welfare Minister U.T. Khader told The Hindu on Friday that the intention was to provide better services to people.

“We are not bothered whether this can be done through one or two separate departments. Both Medical Education and Health departments have their own responsibilities and there is nothing wrong in having two different departments,” he said.

Members of the Karnataka Government Medical Officers’ Association (KGMOA), who are doctors from the health department, are pressing for the merger.

“This decision, if approved by the government, will not only help in streamlining availability of doctors and medical services across the State but also put an end to disparities in employment benefits of the staff in these two departments,” a member said.

KGMOA members, who had gone on a strike in February, had called it off after the proposal to merge the two departments was announced. Their main demand was pertaining to the delinking of the 10 district hospitals from government medical colleges.

The hospitals that were erstwhile under the health department were attached to the medical colleges after 2006 to fulfil Medical Council of India’s (MCI) norms that said all new colleges should have their own clinical facilities.