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Punjab mulls setting up pay clinics; IDPD reacts sharply

The Punjab health department is mulling the idea of a ‘Pay Clinic’ system wherein specialists will get an option to do private practice at government facilities under a formula in which fee charged by the doctor will be shared among specialists, supporting staff and facilities. The government aims to sustain specialists and super-specialists through this scheme.

Members of the Indian Doctors for Peace and Development (IDPD) said the ‘Pay Clinic’ scheme is an attempt to undermine the public health system and ultimately pave way for privatisation of the health sector.

The Punjab health department is mulling the idea of a ‘Pay Clinic’ system wherein specialists will get an option to do private practice at government facilities under a formula in which fee charged by the doctor will be shared among specialists, supporting staff and facilities. The government aims to sustain specialists and super-specialists through this scheme.

The doctors’ outfit said with the implementation of the ‘Pay Clinic’ scheme, doctors can do private practice on public hospital premises after their duty hours.

“The government’s contention that this is to sustain the specialist and super-specialist services in the government sector is untenable. Doctors prefer to do private practice because the salary structure in the state is low. With meager public spending on health, the government is not able to attract doctors to state services,” said Dr Arun Mitra, IDPD president.

“The only way out is that better infrastructure and facilities should be provided at public hospitals. Of all states in the country, the out-of-pocket expenditure on health is maximum in Punjab,” he added.

Dr Indervir Gill, a member of the IDPD, said it is the lower-income group strata, who visits the state facilities as they are unable to pay for healthcare. “Now onwards, they will have to pay for government facilities as well. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the government should spend at least 5% of their GDP on the medical sector. However, the BJP-led Union government has limited the spending on health to 1.98% of GDP which is even less than many underdeveloped countries. The Punjab government had allocated only 1.5% to this sector. According to the NITI Aayog Index, Punjab ranks lowest in terms of allocation to healthcare,” he added. Hindustan Times

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