Belagavi: The Opposition on Thursday vehemently criticised Health Minister U T Khader over the acute shortage of doctors in primary health centres (PHCs), during the winter session of the Legislative Assembly.
The anger against the minister was so intense that he was not even allowed to reply to all the questions raised by the members of the Opposition. Even Speaker Kagodu Thimmappa, as in the past, expressed his displeasure over the shortage of doctors, saying he couldn’t face the people in his constituency.
When the minister said a proposal to increase the salary of doctors – working on contract and MBBS doctors – had been sent for the Finance department’s (FD) approval six months ago, the Speaker said, “If the FD fails to clear the file in the next three days, then I myself will visit the department to understand the status.”
The minister said there were 2,586 PHCs with 2,207 duty doctors. In 559 PHCs, the posts were vacant.
The KPSC had been requested to fill the vacant posts and the deputy commissioners authorised to recruit doctors on contract, he added. Not satisfied with his reply, a good number of MLAs from the JD(S) and the BJP, as well as the Speaker, said no doctor would like to work on contract because of the paltry salary offered. They should be paid on a par with regular doctors, they insisted. The KSPC should be bypassed to fill the posts, they suggested.
When Khader made efforts to come up with his version, none of the members was ready to listen. They all stood up in unison to say the minister had not been responsive.
The minister said that while doctors under the National Health Rural Mission received salary of up to Rs one lakh, those on contract got Rs 26,000. The proposal to increase it to Rs 31,000 has been pending before the finance department. Doctors at PHCs get Rs 70,000. If the FD fails to clear the proposal, then it would go before the State Cabinet, he added.
When Thimmappa repeatedly said the minister could give his reply later, the Congress ministers stood up in support of Khader, saying he should be allowed to reply. When Thimmappa said the minister was being misguided by the officers, Khader retorted saying, “No one is misguiding me. We are all working as a team. We do not want to bypass the KPSC because we do not want to face legal hurdles.”
Finally, the minister had to resume his seat with the Speaker saying he would himself take up the issue with the Finance department.