Back to square one

According to the Ministry of Health and Population’s recent report submitted to the State Affairs Committe of Parliament, almost around 174 doctors’ posts at various levels are still vacant in the government hospitals. The shortage is most acute at the ninth level of doctors’ category, where 78 posts remain unoccupied. The ministry claims this is because the appointed medical practitioners are either on extended holidays or are away on study leave. In addition, one peculiar problem facing the ministry is that doctors seldom report for duty when they are assigned to remote areas. Though there is a legal procedure in place to punish those failing to report for duty, it has not been strictly implemented. However, over 56 doctors in the past were dismissed from service for their failure to go to their assigned hospitals.

Whatever may be the reasons, the government just cannot escape from responsibility for the shortage of doctors in the country. The people, particularly the poor, should not be made to suffer for want of doctors’ services in government hospitals. The government should first show interest in filling the vacancies as soon as they arise. The provision for ‘reserve’ doctors was there in the past, but the government removed it some 10 years ago. It may have to be revived now. And given the increasing number of doctors the country is currently producing (Nepal has 14 medical colleges, which, according to Nepal Medical Association, produce more than 1,000 doctors yearly), there is no justification for the present dearth of doctors.