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Merger of Punjab rural dispensaries with health dept gets fresh push

January 08, 2021 05:56 AM


Merger of Punjab rural dispensaries with health dept gets fresh push
Ravinder Vasudeva

CHANDIGARH : The Punjab government has once again initiated the process to merge the dispensaries run by the department of rural development and panchayati raj into the health and family welfare department.

This is for the second time during the present Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government that the file on the merger proposal has started moving. Earlier, efforts were made last year but had to be deferred due to strong opposition by the Finance Commission.

The proposal was mooted by previous health minister Brahm Mohindra in 2018 to bring health services under one umbrella and to meet out the shortage of doctors by rationalising their appointments as per need.

But the proposal hit a roadblock after most of the doctors serving in the rural dispensaries rejected the offer to join the health department as juniors in the Punjab Civil Medical Service (PCMS) cadre. They had demanded seniority in the PCMS from the date of joining services as rural medical officers.

“Nearly 200 doctors working with the rural development department have already given consent for getting shifting to the health department. Discussions have started again on the issue and the government is working on various options. The agenda will be discussed in the cabinet before getting giving final shape,” rural development and panchayati raj minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said.

A senior health department official privy to the development said in the first step it is likely that only those rural department-run dispensaries would be shifted to health department where no doctor is available at present.

The earlier merger had to be stopped as the Finance Commission that visited Punjab in 2019 raised objections that the state had already merged rural teachers with the main department and doing the same with rural department-run dispensaries would further dilute the mandate of the zila parishad system.

At least 765 MBBS doctors are serving in the rural department-run 1,186 dispensaries that were opened in 2006 to provide the better healthcare facilities in far-flung areas.

Punjab Rural Medical Services Association president Dr Aslum Parvez said the government should not make the rural department doctors a deadwood cadre and should frame a uniform and comprehensive policy for all the doctors working in these dispensaries. “Many doctors are ready to join the health department if they get seniority in the PCMS cadre. Many of our demands have not been met by the state government,” he said

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