The Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) government’s proposal to strip responsibilities of principals of government medical colleges has peeved the medical fraternity at a time when a critical fight against third Covid wave of pandemic is on.
Top doctors have flayed the proposed move of the Department of Health and Medical Education (HMED) that mulls to handover crucial powers to ‘junior’ administrative officers, otherwise held by the principals of the colleges in Srinagar and Jammu. Apart from running the day-to-day affairs of colleges, the principals are also responsible for the functioning of the GMC-designated hospitals.
“Healthcare administration and management are expansive areas and must be discharged by trained accredited professionals. Creation of Indian Healthcare Service (IHS) is most desirable. That clinicians and academics will have an edge cannot be denied,” Dr Sameer Kaul, noted oncologist tweeted over the development that has riled up the medical community.
Dr Naveed Nazir Shah, a leading specialist at Srinagar’s Chest Diseases hospital, who was feted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year for his role during the pandemic, is also critical of the proposal.
“Medicos whether doctors or paramedics are facing this Covid wave as frontline warriors. In this hour, appreciation and a patient-care can relieve them of the stress. If they are distracted, our patient-care will suffer. What can be debated tomorrow should be postponed,” he tweeted.
Calling it an infringement on jurisdiction of principals, a premier doctors body called the Medical Faculty Association (MFA) of GMC, Srinagar, has flayed the move to “divert administrative powers of principals of GMCs to administrators of associated hospitals”.
Members of the association said medical colleges were best run by professionals and not by administrators. Same arrangement is followed in all medical colleges in the country and upheld by the National Medical Commission and the University Grants Commission. “Why is J&K being singled out. What is the motive here,” a member asked.
Only a few weeks ago, the J&K government had to roll back a decision to privatise the power distribution sector when staffers came onto the streets and refused to mend faults.
In a circular last week, the HEMD had proposed to assign responsibilities – currently with the principal – to administrators who are not health functionaries.
Aware of criticism coming from the medical fraternity, the department on Tuesday clarified, saying since the principal provides academic leadership and facilitates research, it was important he or she is spared of routine administrative issues like sanitation, electricity, cleanliness of hospitals and personal matters of employees.
“Accountability can be fixed when responsibilities are clearly defined,” a statement said.
Doctors are however insisting the existing arrangement should not be disturbed. A senior faculty member at GMC, Srinagar, told News 18 that patient care is best addressed by experts and medical professionals.
“If the government really wants to improve healthcare in hospitals, it should induct doctors who have specialised in hospital administration to assist the principal without tampering with his or her powers. These professionals have skills and expertise to run hospitals efficiently,” he said.
“Subject experts add value to hospital functioning and are preferred these days rather than random middle rung bureaucrats,” he said, adding a medical college principal is very senior to a secretary in a state as per the pay band.