As the number of COVID-19 cases is rapidly surging in Andhra Pradesh, the state government has been on a drive to recruit 31,000 medical and health workers on contractual basis for deployment at COVID-19 hospitals.
While the response to the recruitment process has been low owing to the fear of the disease and the contractual nature of the jobs announced, several private doctors are alleging that the district authorities are unilaterally giving appointments to senior private doctors with a bar on private service.
Fifty-nine year old doctor B Srinivasulu heads Aditya Nursing Home, a private health care establishment in Adoni of Andhra Pradesh’s Kurnool District. Srinivasulu told NewsClick that the district collector on August 5 had sent him a temporary appointment order to join a COVID-19 facility in Adoni without prior discussion with him about the matter. According to him, Aditya Nursing Home employs 70 people attending about 120 out patients per day.
In a letter addressed to the District Collector, Srinivasulu wrote, “So by obligatory compliance with your order of appointment, I may need to serve rudely pink slips to my employees and downsize my organisation attracting some employment or labour law issues. I’ll also not be able to take care of my in- patients especially Acute Medical Emergencies Cases like Acute Myocardial Infarction, Acute Poisoning Cases, etc., which need 24 hour supervision. So any lapse from my side will have some medico legal and ethical implications.”
Furthermore, he added that the doctors cannot be forced to work in epidemics in derogation of their Fundamental Rights.
“All such recruitments are being conducted in accordance with the provisions of Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897. If anyone feels their fundamental rights are derogated, they can approach courts,” said an office personnel in Kurnool Collectorate over phone to NewsClick when questioned about the appointments in COVID-19 facilities.
Srinivasulu argued that the Epidemic Diseases Act does not provide for compelling the doctors or any other medical personnel to perform a certain duty, while adding that there is no provision in the law to resort to conscription of medical personnel.
Reportedly, the state government has filled 8,439 posts including specialist doctors, general duty medical officers and so on, and the district collectors have been asked to call for walk-in-interviews as part of the recruitment drive. Last week, Visakhapatnam District Collector V Vinay Chand said that 403 doctors were appointed in COVID-19 hospitals with the help of Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Meanwhile, the pandemic is rapidly spreading across districts in the state. As of August 10 morning, the state reported 7,655 new COVID-19 positive cases in the last 24 hours totalling 2,32,630 cases. A total of 2,116 people have died of the virus in the state. Currently, there are 87,773 active positive cases across all districts.
The whole recruitment process is mired with multifaceted problems, said senior doctor Sambi Reddy, who is also Tenali town’s IMA president. “The state authorities are dictating IMA to find doctors for COVID-19 hospitals. While there is fear of contracting coronavirus, private doctors are hesitating to join temporary government hospitals for a variety of reasons. Also, the way the government is tackling the pandemic appears as if the authorities are dealing with a law and order problem not an health emergency.” He added that the government must focus on roping in young doctors from across the country and also work on a better design with IMA to resolve the professionals’ crisis in the COVID-19 hospitals.
A government hospital doctor from East Godavari district, who wants not to be named, told NewsClick that the district authorities are citing Epidemic Diseases Act even for the recruitment of lab technicians and other medical staff working at private facilities to join COVID-19 hospitals.