Kerala is all set to face one of the most explosive health issue in the last few years. No, this is not a new flavor of Chicken Guniya that I am referring to. The Medical Officers or in other words a large section of the Doctors are almost out of their service as a protest against the government policies regarding their pay scales. When the whole state is still under the influence of the catastrophic fever attack that swept the masses till a few weeks back, this is a double blow on their sinking heads. Even after rounds and rounds of discussions, the two parties still are nowhere near a compromise.
Before anything, I think it is a fact that the Medical Officers in government service are paid very less, compared to their counterparts in Private Healthcare Industry. Also, the salary looks very less if compared with the engineers and other professionals who might have passed out along with the doctors, and are working for national or international firms. And the fact that a young engineering graduate in the IT/Manufacturing/R&D industry with a mere experience of 2 years, will be earning more than a doctor of 20 years experience, is quiet irritating, and often disgusting for many. But may be they tend to forget that the private sector always provide more remuneration than the public sector. Why don’t they compare it with the salary of an engineering college staff, who might have also passed out with them? They must also keep in mind that the private practice that the government has legally allowed is a good option for them to enhance their incomes. I personally know doctors who makes more than 10K a day .But for this, the doctor should excel in his job than his counterparts and hence everyone will not be able to encash this opportunity to their targets.
The recent rush in the private health industry has increased the work scope of our doctors to many folds, and this might have triggered the whole issue to this pace. But all government employees are supposed to work under the Kerala Service Rules, and day to day decisions from the government. Associations are free to express their concerns and protest, but social responsibility entrusted upon them should never be ignored while going to drastic measures. The Medical Colleges, District Hospitals and PHCs are still the only options , thousand in this state have and that should not be passed as unseen. A strike in the Revenue Department or the Animal Husbandry department is not going to cause a big impact in the common man’s life, but that is not the case with doctors. Also, I personally feel that the demands that the doctors have put up are a bit off the border, keeping in mind the salary stack the state maintains from a Municipal Cleaner to the State Chief Secretary.
But from a neutral point of view, I think the biggest asset a Doctor earns in his life time is the good will and status he enjoys in the society. Doctors of USA might be earning a lot more, but they are almost equal to a barber or butcher in the society. Everyone do their duty, and they get paid accordingly. But in India, especially in Kerala, a doctor in a public health institute is respected as a noble human being.
The government should, first of all, acknowledge the concerns of our doctors. They do have a valid point there and all possible steps should be taken to make them remain in their jobs. Absence of 500 doctors from a particular day, is going to cripple this state, literally. The government also should bring new regulations to backup the whole health service, which should include compulsory rural/ government service for Doctors passing out from government medical colleges. They should comprise 50% of the whole Medical Officer strength. So, this in turn will help the other 50% of each batch to move out to their field of choice. Only who are willing to remain in service with available pay may remain. This will avoid these kind of strikes and stand stills.
Both my parents are doctors, but I am proud to say that they are not taking part in this strike program. [Not because they are against salary hike, it’s because they are doctors only by degree and not by profession!]