Bihar government doctors protest against mandatory biometric attendance, share 11-point demands
Patna: Protesting against the mandatory biometric attendance, doctors associated with various government hospitals and other health facilities in Bihar went on a peaceful strike on Thursday under the aegis of the Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA). In addition to the issue of biometric attendance, the doctors also demanded support for their eleven-point demands which included...
Patna: Protesting against the mandatory biometric attendance, doctors associated with various government hospitals and other health facilities in Bihar went on a peaceful strike on Thursday under the aegis of the Bihar Health Services Association (BHSA).
In addition to the issue of biometric attendance, the doctors also demanded support for their eleven-point demands which included a non-practicing allowance and implementation of the old pension scheme.
The doctors had last month reportedly decided to go to work by wearing black badges to protest against the state health department's decision to not revoke the linking of biometric attendance with their salary, which was reported previously by the Medical Dialogues team.
The protest affected the Outdoor patient department (OPD) services across the government hospitals in Bihar, however, they did not leave emergency cases and patients who are in critical condition. Around 36 district hospitals, 55 sub-divisional hospitals, 70 referral hospitals, 534 primary health centres, and 1,330 additional primary health centres were reportedly affected by the protest.
Speaking to Newsclick about the protest, Dr. Ranjeet Kumar, general secretary of BHSA said, "All the government doctors have been boycotting the OPD services to protest against the state government's decision to make biometric attendance mandatory along with their other demands." Stating that the doctors would attend to critical patients in emergency, Kumar added, "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."
There is a shortage of doctors in government-run hospitals, and the condition of mandatory biometric attendance would simply increase the burden on doctors who have been already working for long hours. The doctors stated that biometric attendance is a poor measure taken by the government.
As per a media report in the Hindustan Times, the doctors are also demanding the government to fix their daily and weekly duty hours, fill the vacant posts, ensure their safety, and have a proper discussion with doctors before linking the biometric attendance with their salary. Dr. Hasra Abbas, a core committee member of the BHSA from the Nalanda district had earlier said, "There are only around 5,600 doctors against 13,800 sanctioned posts. Doctors have to work for 12 to 24 hours at a stretch sometimes. We are not averse to biometric attendance. All that we are demanding is that the government should fill up the vacancies, give us a non-practicing allowance and also implement the old pension scheme."
Dr. Ranjeet Kumar said, "Nearly 6,000 of the 13,000 sanctioned posts at the level of basic grade and specialists are vacant. In keeping with the recommendations of the Bihar Human Rights Commission, the government should discuss with the doctors about their duty timings before enforcing the biometric attendance system," adding, "We also want the government to designate officials who can conduct inquiries against doctors. Sometimes the block development officer, circle officer, agriculture officer, or even the child development program officer is designated by the district magistrate or the sub-divisional officer to inquire against doctors. It is disgraceful when junior officials conduct an inquiry against doctors."
Despite assurances from the government to revoke the decision of compulsory biometric attendance, no further action has been taken on this issue. Thus, the BHSA have warned of going on indefinite strike if the government failed to fulfill their demands.
The hospitals where health services were affected due to the strike include Patna Medical College and Hospital, Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH) in Patna, 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. The patients who were facing issues due to the unavailability of OPD services were referred to other hospitals.
Dr. KK Rai, Patna's civil surgeon said, "All OPD services across eight community health centres and 15 primary health centres functioned in the district." Kumar observed, "Remotely serious patients who came to the OPD on Thursday were examined at the emergency, as all other services, barring the OPD, were functional during our protest."
Meanwhile, the officials of medical colleges and hospitals, and the concerned district officials were directed by the state health department to manage the situation during the strike.
The deteriorating condition of the healthcare system in Bihar is also seen in the latest report released by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) this year, which reported that many patients who visit the OPDs of the government hospitals in Bihar often have to return without treatment due to the shortage of doctors, defunct ultrasound, x-ray machines, etc. There is a shortage of resources and medical practitioners in government hospitals reveals the report. Thus, the CAG report revealed that basic health facilities are rarely provided in hospitals.
Revu is currently pursuing her masters from University of Hyderabad. With a background in journalism, she joined Medical Dialogues in 2021.