SUPERANNUATION ISSUE: INDEFINITE SHUTDOWN OF HEALTH UNITS FROM JUL 21 IF NO RESPONSE FROM GOVT
Nagaland In-Service Doctors’ Association (NIDA) has announced a three-day stir on July 18, 19 and 20 over the issue of increasing superannuation age of government doctors.
This was decided at a meeting of NIDA Core Committee members and executives in presence of senior doctors from all districts and directorates on June 23 over the April 21, 2022 cabinet decision vis-à-vis superannuation age of doctors. NIDA said that all district units favoured the proposed agitation.
In the light of the government’s stand NIDA said the meeting decided that it was left with no option but pursue the agitation mode in the form of delivering emergency services only with effect from July 18, 19, and 20, 2022.
NIDA further threatened to call for a total shutdown of all health centres through cease work for an indefinite period from July 21, if the issue was not resolved or no positive response received by then and cautioned that the State government would be held solely responsible in case of any untoward incidents.
NIDA also appealed to general public to bear with the inconvenience caused and support its genuine demand.
According to NIDA, it had written to principal secretary health & family welfare (H&FW) on April 26 and chief minister on June 10, with a request to review the cabinet decision on the superannuation issue. In the letter, NIDA expressed its opposition and inability to accept the decision of the cabinet to raise the superannuation age of all the doctors from 60 to 62 years, through “re-employment”.
NIDA argued that when the proposed “re-employment” was for all medical doctors, then why did it not include administrative positions, including the directorate?
Asserting that this kind of dispensation was tried and tested in NHM up to 65 years but which proved to be a total failure due to hierarchical issues. NIDA asked when most of the North Eastern States had already increased the superannuation age, why Nagaland did not?
It further pointed out that if the cabinet decision was implemented, any officer retiring at additional director rank and above would have hierarchical issues in district hospitals where the controlling officers were of joint director rank.
NIDA said that the demand was for 62 years for all without any other criteria and that it would stick by this decision.
It also insisted that effective date of implementation of any cabinet decision should be very clearly mentioned.
Meanwhile, the association claimed that 150 doctors would be required in each of the two upcoming medical colleges at Kohima and Mon.
And since the Nagaland Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (NIMSR) would be functional by 2022-23 academic year, out of the 150 doctors required so far, about 40-50 in-service doctors were eligible and willing to take up different posts in the upcoming medical colleges.
With the exit of such a large number of medical officers from the State health services, the association warned that there would be a severe shortage of manpower in public health facilities in the State. It regretted that in spite of appealing to the authority to review the cabinet decision of April 21, the State government had so far failed to acknowledge the same and that it had not received any positive response from the government to date.
NIDA quoted a survey to claimed that the requirement for doctors in the country was about six lakhs, while only 70,000 doctors were produced annually.
To maintain WHO-recommended doctor-patient ratio and also the requirement of 1,200 doctors in Nagaland, according to 2022 population of Nagaland is 2,189,297, NIDA stated.
But based on the total registration of doctors under Nagaland Medical Council (NMC), the number of doctors in the State was 1,229 only to date. Also, considering that more than 20% doctors were inactive, there would be around 245 inactive doctors, with active doctors being 984 only. Therefore, the association claimed that shortfall of doctors in the State stood at a staggering 871, excluding two upcoming medical colleges and five newly-created Districts.
NIDA pointed out that presently, only about 40-50 MBBS seats are allotted to Nagaland by the Government of India every year and that at that rate, it would take about 24-27 years or even more to achieve and come on a par with the WHO recommendation.
It said that out of 1,229 registered doctors in the State, 528 are in the public sector, about 200 are retired or had resigned and around 245 inactive adding it meant that approximately only 456 doctors are in the private sector.
NIDA thus explained that enhancement of superannuation age of doctors will not adversely affect employment avenues for unemployed doctors in Nagaland.
NIDA suggested that besides creation of more posts, retention of doctors through enhancement of superannuation age and production of more doctors by opening more medical colleges would help tide over the acute shortages of doctors in the State.
While stressing on requirement of experienced senior doctors to see the fruition of ongoing projects, especially the upcoming medical colleges at Kohima and Mon that were a very crucial phase, NIDA said a minimum of 150 doctors per medical college would be required, which would further lead to shortfall of doctors in the public sector.
It also emphasised that training of doctors was highly resource intensive and also a fact that clinical acumen increased with experience. NIDA said it was a fact that many retired and highly experienced doctors were being immediately engaged by private hospitals, while government hospitals were deprived of utilising their expertise and experience due to early retirement. Therefore, enhancing the superannuation age would enable optimal use of service of the highly trained and well-experienced doctors, the association reasoned.