BY SANGEETA RIJAL
KATHMANDU, June 4 – Forty-five of 71 doctors posted at several Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and district hospitals under the Scholarship Act said they won’t go to work in remote areas, protesting against the recent amendment to the Act.The amendment to the Act in January 2006 states that doctors who study under government scholarship have to work in remote areas for two years.
Dr Dibya Raj Misra, one of the 45 doctors lobbying against the amendment, said, “The government’s step to make the doctors studying under its scholarship scheme work in remote parts especially at PHCs and district hospitals for two years is unjustified.”
Misra, who was posted at Katari PHC on March 4 this year, said, “We have returned to Kathmandu to exert pressure upon the ministry to revoke the amendment. And we won’t get back to work unless our demands are fulfilled.”
He said the Act has a provision that such doctors (doctors, who studied under government scholarship) will be posted in government posts. “But the government didn’t apply this provision while it posted us to different PHCs and district hospitals,” he said.
He said the doctors were posted only as consultants. “We have to work under the Assistant Health Workers now,” he said, adding, “It’s very humiliating.”
The agitating doctors demand that the current provision of compulsory two years’ service in remote areas be minimized to one year. They also demand that their service period under the Scholarship Act should be counted from the time they join government service, under the Civil Service Act.
The Scholarship Act was promulgated in 1964. The students, while applying for government quota under the Act, have to sign a contract which states that they will serve in remote areas for certain years after completing their studies. Although the students signed the contract, the provision was never implemented in the past. Prior to amending the Act, doctors had to serve in remote areas for five years.
In view of the growing scarcity of human resources in government health institutions; especially in remote areas, government amended the Act in 2006. The national review meeting of health directors from five development regions, held during November last year had stated that only 40 to 45 per cent of the doctors’ quota were filled in health institutions. The ministry then decided to depute 150 doctors produced annually through government quota in district hospitals and PHCs to tackle the problem.
Giri Raj Mani Pokhrel, health minister, said the ministry is positive toward the demands of the protesting doctors. He said the ministry would not minimize the duration of the service. “But other demands can be considered,” he said, adding, “We will ensure their status and financial aspects.”
He said the cabinet meeting will soon address their problems.
As Posted on The Kathmandu Post, June 5th edition.