‘Why are we being ignored?’
Employees in government hospitals and colleges lament over pending salaries, promotions and the temporary nature of their jobs, while hundreds of vacancies across the State remain unfilled for many years.
CHENNAI: The pandemic proved beyond all reasonable doubt the crucial role medical personnel, including doctors, nurses, sanitary workers at hospitals, lab technicians, professors, administrative staff, head of a college and others, play in keeping the public healthcare system running, and running efficiently.
But it seems as if the State government didn’t get the memo, as there are thousands of vacancies in government hospitals (GH) across the State that are yet to be filled, while temporary workers hired on contract await salaries, transfers and permanent positions, and any kind of sign that their efforts and service haven’t been in vain.
Pay and promotions
There’s a GO 354 which states that doctors working in State government institutions will be given salaries on par with the Central government doctors.
The demand to implement the GO was raised during the previous regime as well. Health Minister Ma Subramanian had met the doctors regarding the issue in August 2021 and assured implementation.
However, after over a year, government authorities are unclear of the GO status. Officials from the Directorate of Medical Education say that they’re still analysing the feasibility of its implementation.
Government doctors claim that they were pressurised by their respective departments to impersonate personnel during an inspection conducted by the National Medical Commission, as the promotion counselling was not done on time.
“In government medical colleges in the State, there are many doctors eligible for promotion in all ranks, including associate professor and professors. However, the government did not conduct promotion counselling on time,” says Dr S Perumal Pillai, president, legal coordination committee for government doctors. “Over 200 doctors of the 2019 batch are working as associate professors in medical colleges. After having completed 3 years of service in June, they’re eligible for promotion to become a professor as per NMC rules, but the counselling process is not yet planned.”
Lots of vacancies
The Federation of Government Doctors Association has also pointed out that there were vacant posts for professor and associate professor in many government medical colleges, which had over 10% of the faculty shortage. However, the association claims that colleges cover up such issues. Instead of filling up these vacancies, many cases of impersonation have been reported in Villupuram, Melmaruvathur and other districts.
For instance, the post of dean in Government Medical College Villupuram, and director in the Department of Orthopaedics at Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital have been vacant for a long time. And, in new medical colleges, the management is yet to appoint associate professors and professors in various departments.
The promotion counselling for the post of a professor in a government dental college has also been pending for over 7 years.
Nurses across GHs have been demanding permanent appointment for over four years.
The issue worsened this year as the order was given to terminate those appointed on a temporary basis from service. Their repeated protests in the last few months have also included cancellation of their termination orders.
“Since 2015, only 3,200 nurses have been designated as permanent workers. The rest have been struggling to get 2 years of consolidated pay,” avers Rajasekar, member of MRB Nurses Welfare Association. “Nurses have been denied basic rights such as financial assistance during maternity leave. Many nurses who were appointed on contract during COVID-19 had died due to the virus, but the reason of death is cited as illnesses, and not COVID. Despite serving the government during the pandemic, they’ve not been provided monetary assistance.”
The Doctor’s Association for Social Equality (DASE) had also requested the government for permanent appointment for MRB contract nurses who were appointed in the last 8 years. Dr GR Ravindranath, general secretary, DASE, says that denying permanent appointment is against the existing policy of appointment of healthcare staff. “All nurses were appointed after they appeared for the examination conducted by the Medical Recruitment Board. Their certificates were verified, but they were given a consolidated pay of Rs 14,000. Plus, a permanent appointment is being denied,” he points out.
Shortage of technicians
The dialysis facilities in most GHs are an essential medical service but technicians with the necessary know-how have been demanding extension of their service period as their service was on contract-based appointment.
Over 160 dialysis technicians have not been paid and their contract was due to renewal in November 2022.
A member of the TN Dialysis Technicians Welfare Association said that the number of lab technicians in every medical college hospital is low when compared to the Medical Commission guidelines.
“Our arrears have not been paid for months. Though we were assured of permanent appointment, the pay remains Rs 7,000. There’s no order passed on the extension of service yet,” said the technician.
The Paramedical Lab Education and Welfare Association members also rue the shortage of technicians in GHs, as about 3,000 positions for the Medical Laboratory Technician Level-2 are vacant. The Medical Recruitment Board is supposed to fill these vacancies by conducting a written test. Appointments are supposed to be based on seniority level but they’re still being appointed based on marks obtained in the diploma course.
Outsourced or on contract
Not only the doctors, nurses or lab technicians but even in-house multi-purpose staff and healthcare workers have been demanding permanent appointments as the had completed the required number of years in the government sector.
Though sanitary workers are mostly outsourced by the government, they’re hired on daily wage pay and demand a stop to temporary appointment of workers.
A GO in 2006 (DMK regime), had stated that the government would stop temporary contract-based appointment, however, it has been neglected by the government.
“The Medical Recruitment Board should be responsible for the appointment of the staff in all levels, and it can serve as one nodal agency. This includes nurses, doctors, lab technicians, pharmacists, health inspectors, dental assistants, city health nurses and other multi-purpose staff through district welfare association,” explains Dr R Shanthi, member of DASE.
DEMANDS IN A NUTSHELL
* Pay doctors in State government-run institutions on par with doctors in places run by the Union government
* Conduct promotion counselling for eligible candidates, including academics
* Give permanent appointments toN nurses, sanitary workers, lab technicians and other multipurpose staff working on contract
* Provide all benefits including maternity leave and financial assistance
* Pay salary regularly, and give arrears as soon as possible