Op-Ed: New Health Policy Must Address Pressing Issues

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: A new health policy for the state is on the anvil. The government is keen to stop the flight of doctors to hospitals in the private sector, especially outside the state. If the new policy, which is expected to offer fresh and more alluring incentives to doctors, can address the issue of brain drain in the health sector, the crisis of doctors in the state would be automatically resolved.

Health minister, Naba Kishore Das has dropped clear hints in this regard saying that under the new policy steps will be taken to retain doctors who migrate to other states after completing their studies at state government’s expense. Plans are also afoot to create more posts of doctors to deal with the current shortfall which is badly affecting health services in the state.

The number of MBBS graduates coming out of the state is also likely to increase with proposals for setting up more medical colleges at places like Talcher, Puri and Sundergarh. All this sounds fine theoretically but much would depend upon the effective implementation of the policy and the government’s ability to deal with the major problems plaguing the health sector.

This certainly is not the first time that government would be offering special incentives to make its hospitals and health centres more attractive to doctors. In the past special packages including 100 percent additional salary were offered to medicos ready to serve in far flung tribal dominated areas, especially in the much maligned Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput (KBK) belt. Steps like upward revision of retirement age have also been taken to draw doctors to government hospitals. But results have been less than encouraging.

People living in the interior areas of the state with poor road connectivity and other infrastructural facilities have been the worst victims of doctors’ apathy. Not willing to serve in such areas doctors either refuse appointments in hospitals and health centres located there or fail to turn up after being posted. Absenteeism among medicos posted in the once ‘cut-off’ ( renamed as Swabhiman Anchal after the inauguration of Gurpriya bridge) area of Malkangiri district has been rampant with quacks having a field day.

With doctors playing truant around 30, 000 people living in 151 villages under nine panchayats of this belt depend almost entirely on quacks for treatment. These semi-educated self proclaimed practitioners of medicine ply their trade even in the daily markets in these villages.

Strangely quacks, who take advantage of people’s ignorance, are active even in the urban areas of the state. They have been playing with the lives of people with state agencies remaining more or less a mute spectator. With the number of quackery victims on the rise the least that the state government can do is to try and identify these impostors and bring them to book immediately when complaints surface.

Apart from coming up with fresh incentives to lure doctors to government hospitals the new health policy should also focus on aspects like curbing the menace of quackery, a phenomenon that thrives on the state’s failure to provide reliable healthcare to people.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)