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Bihar: Govt Hospital Doctors Protest Mandatory Biometric Attendance

Amid a shortage of staff, overworked doctors are opposed to linking biometric attendance with their salary.

Representational use only.

Patna: Hundreds of doctors of government-run hospitals and other health facilities in Bihar went on strike on Thursday to protest against mandatory biometric attendance and support their eleven-point demands, including a non-practising allowance and implementation of the old pension scheme. 

The strike has paralysed out-patient departments in government-run hospitals across the state, but doctors say they will still attend to emergency patients in critical conditions.

The government doctors have been protesting under the call given by Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA). "All the government doctors have been boycotting the OPD services to protest against the state government decision to make biometric attendance mandatory along with their other demands,” Dr Ranjeet Kumar, general secretary of BHSA, told NewsClick.

Kumar said doctors will attend to critical patients in emergency. "We were forced to protest because the government failed to revoke its decision to link biometric attendance with their salary. We are against mandatory biometric attendance," he said.

According to BHSA members, the health department is facing a shortage of doctors in government-run hospitals. This has put an extra burden on the doctors who have been working for long hours. In such a situation, the doctors say mandatory biometric attendance is a poor decision. The government had assured them to revoke the decision of compulsory biometric attendance. However, to date, no decision has been taken in this matter.

The BHSA threatened that the government doctors will go on indefinite strike if their demands were not fulfilled.

As per reports, OPD services have been badly hit by the doctors' strikes in nine government-run medical colleges and hospitals, main district hospitals and block-level hospitals.

The peaceful strike by doctors at the Patna Medical College and Hospital, and Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) in Patna disrupted health services. Similar situations were seen in Darbhanga Medical College Hospital, Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital in Muzaffarpur, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College Hospital in Bhagalpur, and Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College in Gaya.

In Patna, mostly the poor patients have been facing problems primarily at the OPD in PMCH where they were referred to consult from different hospitals across the state.

The state health department has directed officials of medical colleges and hospitals as well as concerned district officials to manage the situation amid the strike.

Despite government claims, health infrastructure remains poor in Bihar; thousands of patients, primarily poor and marginalised, visit OPDs at different hospitals and return without treatment due to the unavailability of doctors, defunct ultrasound, x-ray machines, etc. This year's latest report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) revealed the alarming healthcare situation.

The report stated that the government-run hospitals, mainly the district hospitals, suffered from a severe lack of resources, workforce and plans for the growing population. It also clarified that the number of doctors, nurses and other paramedic staff was significantly less.

“There was a persistent shortage of doctors, nurses, paramedical staffs, and technicians in Bihar from 2014 till 2020, but the department did not publish the total vacancies to get them filled," the report said.

As per the report, there is a shortfall of beds, ranging from 52% to 92%. Actual bed strength was not raised to the sanctioned level even as a decade had passed.

According to the CAG report, the district government-run hospitals could hardly provide patients with basic health facilities. The situation was noticed during the audit of the functioning of hospitals in five districts - Biharsharif, Hajipur, Jehanabad, Madhepura, and Patna - for the period 2014-15 to 2019-20.

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