BENGALURU: Facing a severe shortage of specialists in government hospitals, Karnataka has decided to bring the on-call fees given to doctors on par with the private sector. The health department has empowered deputy commissioners to constitute Arogya Raksha Samithis involving physicians, surgeons, paediatricians, gynaecologists and other specialists, who will visit taluk and district hospitals and public health centres on call to treat patients and pay them the same amount they get in private hospitals. The scheme, conceptualised last year, kicked in January this year. Due to the Lok Sabha polls, the implementation had been delayed. “The committee will frequently meet and analyse shortage of specialties in public health institutions and fix on-call rates for different types of cases, taking into consideration fees charged by specialists in private hospitals,’’ said Pankaj Kumar Pandey, commissioner, state health department. The rates will be fixed based on taluks and regions. “Local problems, availability of specialists in private sector, convenience of transport and distance to nearest specialty hospital will be taken into consideration. The committee will have the liberty to fix high rates after giving valid reasons,” Pandey said. Once rates are fixed, the district health officer will advertise in local newspapers for on-call specialists. Depending on the response, he’ll constitute panels involving 4-8 specialists in each field. In 2017-18, the Karnataka government had rolled out the ‘specialists on call’ scheme to create a pool of specialists in every district of the state to overcome shortage of doctors and avoid wastage of resources in staterun hospitals under the National Health Mission. Quality healthcare for all ‘Revised on-call fees will push doctors to go to govt hospitals’ However, there was poor response from private doctors because the government had standardised the oncall fees in all districts. “It failed as the on-call fee for a doctor in a private hospital in Bengaluru was the same as that for a doctor in a private hospital in Yadgir (a backward district),” said a senior health officer. “With the fees hiked, the government will pay the deficit,’’ Pandey said. As per health department estimates, about 3,000 posts of doctors, including 1,400 specialists, are vacant statewide. Many specialists appointed since 2015 haven’t reported for duty. Health activist Somashekar Bhandari said: “This scheme may encourage doctors in the private sector. However, why would a doctor travel long distances to treat a patient when she can earn the same money by consulting at 3-4 private hospitals within a 5km range?,’’ he asked. “The revised rates on par with other private hospitals will encourage doctors to go to government hospitals,” said Bengaluru-based gynaecologist Dr K Kishore. DNB doctors in Karnataka To deal with shortage of specialists, the Union health & family welfare ministry allotted 80 specialists seats to Karnataka under DNB (Diplomate in National Board) courses. Last year, the parliamentary standing committee on health recommended that the DNB awarded by the National Board of Examination is equivalent to Doctor of Medicine (MD), except in teaching. Health commissioner Pankaj Kumar Pandey said these doctors have to do three years on-the-job training and then sign a bond of 5 years with the government.
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