Incentives for rural doctors

PUNJAB Government has announced a special pay package for emergency medical officers opting to serve in hospitals in far-off areas of the province. All district and tehsil headquarters hospitals will have emergency medical officers and depending on their distance from mainstream cities they would get a special allowance ranging from Rs 100,000 to 250,000 a month.
This is, indeed, a step in the right direction as it would help address the perennial issue of non-availability of qualified doctors even at tehsil and district headquarters hospitals of far-flung and rural areas where patients were left at the mercy of circumstances or private doctors and facilities, which are mostly beyond the paying capacity of people in these areas. In fact, like other government servants, it is part of the terms and conditions for the appointment offers of doctors to serve anywhere in the province but once appointed they show reluctance to perform duties in rural areas because of lack of civic facilities. In cities, they also do private practice and apprehend loss of sizeable portion of income in case of their posting to rural and far-flung areas to perform duties as emergency medical officer. In this backdrop, grant of special allowance would, to a great extent, take care of their financial concerns and hopefully patients would have round-the-clock availability of qualified doctors at these hospitals. However, it may be pointed out that non-availability of medical officers is also a serious problem for most of the dispensaries and basic health units in rural areas. Incentives should also be offered for them besides provision of missing facilities especially lab facilities for common diseases. Provision of such services at the doorstep of citizens would not only alleviate their sufferings to a great extent but also lessen burden on major hospitals in urban areas. Punjab Government has done well in discouraging the culture of absenteeism in educational institutions and there is need to replicate the practice for medical institutions as well besides addressing unending complaints of non-availability of essential and routine medicines in dispensaries and basic health units.

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