Mangaluru, April 11, 2020: Many newspapers on Friday featured a Karnataka government advertisement calling for a state epidemiologist and a state veterinary consultant in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. These are temporary positions under the state government, based on a one-year contract.
The advert issued by the Karnataka State Health and Family Welfare Society as part of the National Health Mission, however, has raised some concerns among the medical professionals. Although both the positions have different roles and qualifications, the government promises the same amount as monthly remuneration: Rs 33,600 only.
The eligible candidate for the post of state epidemiologist should be a medical graduate with a postgraduate degree or diploma in the specific field (such as Doctor of Medicine MD Master of Public Health) or a Masters in Life Sciences with three years of relevant experience or Masters in Epidemiology with three years in Public Health along with knowledge in computer and MS Office.
An epidemiologist studies the patterns of the frequency of diseases in the human population, as well as its causes and effects. Accurate information provided by epidemiologists can help authorities in decision making.
According to Dr Edmond Fernandes, a community health physician and chief of Center for Health and Development (CHD) based in Mangaluru, one cannot equate an MD (Doctor of Medicine) with an MPH (Master of Public Health) or with diploma holders. “The ad is full of flaws. The department seemingly does not know what is their requirement or the difference in the degrees as they are equating all these degrees,” he said.
A health care management professional who is trained in public healthcare and is currently in the private sector, said even non-government organisations (NGOs) working in remote corners of the country offer better compensation.
“This is too stark a disparity, especially with someone having an MBBS degree and an MD degree, and that too with three years of experience. The Chhattisgarh government is paying an epidemiologist Rs 60,000, which is much better. Further, it must be noted that these temporary staff won’t even get dearness (DA) and travel allowances (TA) compared to permanent staff,” he said.
Edmond noted that the minimum pay for an epidemiologist should be at least Rs 85,000, the same amount an MD who is teaching at a medical college receives. “Even nurses with five years of experience in government positions are given around Rs 40,000. A postgraduate who is in residency programme in a government college gets around Rs 80,000. Even ayurvedic doctors on a contractual post are given better remuneration,” said Dr Edmond, who is also a member of the Karnataka Health Task Force under the District Disaster Management Authority of Dakshina Kannada district.
Further, he said that this translates to people with low skill sets eventually getting hired, and in turn, affecting the health sector. “Even if well-qualified professionals join these positions, they will not commit themselves to these temporary positions; but will start looking for other jobs,” he claimed.
The healthcare management professional pointed out that instead of working with the government in these temporary posts, many of these doctors who want to work for the community, end up working with NGOs and trusts that work closely with the government. “Otherwise, they work as research scholars in public health institutions, who pay them much more than this,” he said, requesting the government officials to give due value the public health graduates.
On a social media post, former Health Secretary Sujatha Rao has commented that the services of such health personnel are devalued.
Courtesy: The News Minute