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Dearth of doctors ails Odisha health sector, quacks rule roost

Bhubaneswar: An acute shortage of doctors plagues Odisha, with quacks ruling the roost in rural areas and the urban health sector at the mercy of paramedics and pharmacists.

Despite several schemes launched in the state to improve medical facilities, acute shortage of doctors and specialists has paralysed the healthcare delivery system, even though this capital city is emerging as a health hub with the presence of reputed private hospitals.

Over 3,500 doctors’ posts are lying vacant in three medical colleges and other hospitals in the state. Besides, more than 500 doctors have not joined their duties since long, despite the government slapping notices on them for leaving their place of duty without authorisation, said a senior official of the health department.

While 375 teachers’ posts were unmanned in three government-run medical colleges – SCB medical college, MKCG medical college and VSS medical college — and one dental college, a total of 20 professors, 44 associate professors and 297 assistant professors’ posts were vacant in the medical colleges, Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak told the assembly recently.

Similarly, there is a huge vacancy in the rural areas. Against 4,864 sanctioned posts, only 2,293 doctors are working in government hospitals starting from primary hospitals to district headquarter hospitals, the minister said.

According to the Indian Public Health Standards, there should be at least one doctor for a population of 3,500.

“The state should have 11,540 doctors for its 4.2 crore (42 million) population. But it has a sanctioned strength of 4,864 doctors for government-run health centres,” said an expert.

Recently, the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Post Graduate Institute of Paediatrics, popularly known as Shishu Bhawan at Cuttack, had hogged the headlines for a spate of infants’ deaths.

A government report has found that more than 5,900 infants have died while undergoing treatment in the last five years.

Even though the government has taken a number of steps, doctors are not showing any interest to serve in the state.

In order to meet the shortage of doctors, the state government had last year enhanced the retirement age of government doctors from 58 to 60 years, and 62 in the case of the medical college faculty.

In order to retain doctors in the tribal and inaccessible areas, especially the undivided Koraput-Bolangir-Kalahandi (KBK) districts, the government has implemented a package of incentives with 100 percent additional salary to attract medicos in these pockets. These moves, however, have failed to attract doctors.

With the absence of doctors in rural areas, quacks rule the roost, taking undue advantage of ignorance and illiteracy of rural people.

“People are being taken for a ride by these quacks not only in rural areas but also the urban areas in the state. A good number of quacks are active in the state and playing with the lives of people. While the Medical Council of India has implemented an anti-quackery law, the state medical council should implement it,” Saroj Sahu, president of Indian Medical Association, Odisha, told IANS.

He said it is unfortunate that the state medical council is in a defunct form for the last 25 years and is managed by one person.

Sahu said the state government has neither identified the quacks nor taken any action against them. It does not have an anti-quackery cell, said sources.

Health Minister Nayak however told IANS that the government is acting against the quacks whenever it receives any complaint from the people.

There are allegations that in interior pockets of tribal districts some quacks producing fake certificates are active in government hospitals at pharmacist level.

“The chief district medical officers (CDMOs) have been asked to inform the police about the quacks in their areas,” Chitaranjan Nayak, director (health services), told IANS.

According to social activists working in rural areas, due to the absence of basic healthcare, villagers are gullible to the services provided by quacks, who are the biggest challenge and roadblock in improving healthcare in rural areas.

(Chinmaya Dehury / IANS)


  1. dr manoj kishore nayak dr manoj kishore nayak Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Frankly speaking govt doesn’t want to solve this problem.
    We r suffering like in a hell here. We never get any support from authority nor any love from people.
    We don’t get any accommodation but the contractual employees gets the same bcz we don’t ask for intervention from a kuji neta.we r forced to stay outside though quarters r available here.
    Though we want an interior posting no one cares for it. And govt says there r no doctors.

  2. Dr K.Gowrinath Dr K.Gowrinath Monday, October 12, 2015

    Health sector is neglected and quacks are enjoying the status of rural medical doctors.In many states,they have associations and political patronage.In our state,these quacks have started earning more money by ganging up with some allopathic doctors in cities and get percentage for referring the case to them.The fact that only three government medical colleges in the whole state of Odisha and no prompt recruitment to fill up the vacant medical posts in the existing government medical colleges is diplorable. Already some of my friends are saying that the only section that benefitted a lot after independence is rich farmers. Everywhere in politics be it village or state level.They are not likely to show any genuine interest to improve education and health of people.The other sections of the society like doctors are being targetted easily in rural areas without any fear and the irregularities of farmers are not highlighted in the media.Unless rich farmers are voted out of power by other sections of society unitedly ,no improvement in health sector in the states can be expected.

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