Bengal government has decided to increase the retirement age of doctors. Doctors teaching in the medical colleges will now be retiring at 70, while the non-teaching doctors will retire at 68.
This decision has also been taken without making allowances for any further development in the infrastructure of the present medical colleges along with the plan to set up five new medical colleges in the state.
Senior officials of the state government said that although the retirement age of the doctors has been increased to 70 years from 65 years it is not a smart move. After crossing 60 years of age, it is difficult for a person to take on the extra load of patients every day as their health no longer permits it.
The first factor to help the struggling health care sector in the state, therefore, is the need to set up a proper infrastructure so that doctors can work more efficiently.
Giving the example of Sagar Dutta Medical College & Hospital in North 24 Parganas, sources in the state secretariat said that there is a lack of basic ECG machines and the patient rush is huge. As a result, the patients need to get their tests done from outside the hospital.
But Sagar Dutta Medical College & Hospital is not an exceptional case, conditions of new super-specialty hospitals in the state are similar if not worse. They lack both the manpower and the necessary equipment required to run such an unit.
A senior official from the state health department said, "Not only do the super-speciality hospitals lack manpower, but infrastructure has not been fully developed to deal with critical operations. Patients are referred to city based medical colleges, thus increasing the burden of those institutions"
But instead of catering better to the hospitals and medical colleges that are already up and functional, the Bengal government has decided to set up 20 more such super-speciality hospitals in East Midnapore, Purulia, Birbhum, Jalpaiguri, Nadia, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas.
Age IS a factor
Officials have now added to the infrastructure crisis by increasing the retirement ages for the teaching and non-teaching doctors.
A top official from the state government said, "After 60 years of age it is difficult for a person to take on the same workload as before so there is hardly of any effect if the retirement age of doctors is increased. Doctors can always take VRS and the crisis will remain. There is a need for a more holistic approach to improve the sector instead of just increasing the retirement age of doctors."
In India, the retirement age of teaching doctors attached with the Centre-run medical colleges, like AIIMS, is 65. Apart from Bengal, other states are yet to increase the retirement age of doctors for state-run medical colleges to 70 years. But, the MCI has the provision to increase the retirement age up to 70.
Principal Secretary of Department of Health & Family Welfare, Bengal, RS Shukla said, "With plans for setting up five new medical colleges in the state - in Coochbehar, Raigunj, Rampurhar, Purulia and Diamond Harbour - and seven new nursing training institutes at Ghatal, Barasat, Basirhat, Jangipur, Jhargram, Uluberia and Kamarhati, a section of officials feel that the effort of the state government will help meet the dearth of doctors in the state."
Dr Satyajit Chakraborty, Secretary of CPI(M)-backed Association of Health Service Doctors, criticised the move and said that increasing the retirement age won't be effective as after 60 many doctors cannot actively concentrate on surgery and their health does not permit taking on huge loads of patients .
And the doctors are bound to remain absent from the hospital, although the Bengal government can show MCI that the doctors are appointed and are working at the hospital, Chakraborty pointed out.
According to Chakraborty, it won't help the patients at large if the decision has been taken to just increase the retirement age of the doctors, and a policy should be made keeping in mind the overall requirements of the sector.
West Bengal Medical Council of India President Dr Santanu Sen said it is beneficial for the state if the retirement ages of doctors is increased as lack of manpower in the government health care sector is a matter of huge concern. Sen believes that this call will definitely help meet the dearth of doctors in the state, especially with the big expansion plans being drawn up by CM Mamata Banerjee.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen