7,094 docs here but few work in remote villages

Kathamndu, October 18:

Although there has been a substantial rise in the number of doctors in the country, the regional and districts hospitals are at the mercy of health assistants as the doctors prefer joining the mushrooming private hospitals and clinics to government hospitals.

According to Nepal Medical Council (NMC) records , the number of doctors increased 60- fold since 1990 — from 119 to 7,094 now. The doctor- patient ratio was 8,439 in 2004, which is now 3,500, if we assume the total population of the country is 2.5 million.

Acording to the annual report of the Department of Health Services (DoHS) 2005/06, the number of patients who availed of services from 89 hospitals across the country was 3797,332 .

“It shows that we can afford to deliver better service by mobilising the existing number of doctors,” said Dr Arjun Pant, a paediatric consultant.

About 700 doctors graduate every year from 14 medical colleges of the country .An equal number graduates from abroad.

“There is no dearth of doctors. We need to optimum utilisation of the existing resources, which has never happened due to poor management,” Pant said.

Dr Shree Krishna Giri, registrar of the National Academy of Medical Science (NAMS), pointed out the weak implementation of the government programmes. “We have sufficient number of doctors to fill in quotas in all the hospital,” he said.

There is hardly one doctor available in district hospitals while health assistants run the primary health centres in remote districts.

Krishna Murary Neupane, under secretary at the DoHS, said the doctors serving in remote areas are entitled to take study leave. “The posts remains vacant when they go for their studies,” he said.

The government has made it mandatory for the doctors who study on government cholarship to serve in hospitals in remote areas for at lest two years. The government provides 300 scholarships for medical students every year.

“The problem would be solved if they follow the provision. We have not implemented any of the provisions,” argues Dr Giri.

However, Neupane claimed that they have started filling vacant positions appointing doctors on contract.

“We have already deployed 140 doctors who had won government scholarship to remote areas in the past two years. We are hopeful there will be no hospital without doctors by next year,” he said.