The Allahabad High Court, on Wednesday, ruled that an application for voluntary retirement cannot be rejected solely on the ground of there being a scarcity of doctors in the State.
The Bench comprising Justice Devendra Kumar Arora and Justice Rajnish Kumar also issued a slew of directions to improve the healthcare facilities in the State, observing, "We hope and trust that the State Government will sincerely address the issues and will come out with a concrete health policy in larger interest of the general public."
A copy of the order was accordingly directed to be sent to the State Chief Secretary and the Principal Secretary, Department of Medical Health and Family Welfare.
The Court was hearing Petitions filed by doctors whose application for voluntary retirement was either rejected or was kept pending citing "public interest" in view of the scarcity of doctors.
Agreeing with the Petitioners, the Court took into consideration Fundamental Rule 56 (c) and 56(d) of the Financial Handbook, noting that the same does not list "public interest" as a ground for rejection of an application for voluntary retirement.
"As stated above, the application has been rejected solely in the public interest and shortage of doctors but nowhere in the Fundamental Rule 56(c) & (d), the State Government/appointing authority has been vested with the power to refuse such an application in public interest or shortage of staff and as such this ground is not at all available to the State Government," it then ruled.
Accordingly, terminal benefits of the Petitioners were directed to be settled within three months from the date of their retirement.
The Court noted that the country seems to have only one doctor per 2,000 patients in the country. It then pondered upon the reasons for such scarcity, observing, "... instead of blame-game, the authorities who are responsible for monitoring the health system in the State must minutely and sincerely examine the issues as to how the working of the government hospitals can be improved for the betterment of the general public and why doctors are opting for voluntary retirement every day.
One must not forget that everyone is keenly interested in government job and a candidate has to clear tough competitive examination to enter into government service but on the other hand the doctors are not interested in joining the government service and even it has come to the knowledge that pots of Medical Officers are not being filled on account of non-availability of candidates. Further, who have entered into government service are continuously opting for voluntary retirement from service causing serious scarcity of doctors in government hospitals and Primary Health Centers."
The Court opined that whenever a medical specialist is posted in a managerial post, "the needy are deprived of specialist treatment and it involves wastage of a specialized talent".
It then suggested, "With the specialized field of Hospital Administration to address the administration/ management, issues of medical facilities, such doctors, who are specialized in Hospital Administration can be appointed to cater day to day management of hospital. However, whenever, further specialized view is required, specialists may be included in relevant committees. Also, appropriate changes in cadre structure can be made so as not to affect promotional avenues.
Efficiency should become the keyword in all activities involved in running hospitals so as to avoid the frustrations of medical staff with inadequate infrastructure, non-working equipment and unsafe working environment. An efficient and committed administration working closely with dedicated staff can make public hospitals excellent centres of health care. Those with talent and dedication will stay while those interested in making more money will leave at the cost of job satisfaction."
The Court further suggested that the authorities must strengthen the current system to provide better housing facilities to the doctors and revamp the recruitment policies to fill vacant positions in Government and Civic Hospitals.
Furthermore, it advised that a balance be maintained between specialized senior and junior doctors, and that doctors be given an opportunity to participate in conferences and seminars, suggesting, "In order to facilitate these mechanism as well as boost the morale of the doctors to exchange their views/ opinion/ knowledge including advancement in the Medical field, the authorities of the State can make a policy like such doctors, who attends CMEs/ Seminars/ Conferences by submitting papers, would be awarded points, which may be considered at the time of his/her promotion and preference would be given to such doctors in promotion."