West Bengal: NOC mandatory for engaging Govt doctors, Health dept issues advisory for private hospitals and clinics

Kolkata: Private clinical establishments in West Bengal recruiting government doctors are required to obtain a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the government before engaging them, directed the West Bengal Department of Health and Family Welfare. 

The department issued an advisory on November 2 regarding the same, signed by the state Director of Health Services and state Director of Medical Education, which read, “Clinical establishments can engage government doctors in a practising post and are not drawing non-practising allowance after fulfilling the conditions as stipulated in clause 6 (chapter II) of the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Rules, 2017.”

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It further stated, “No clinical establishment shall engage or empanel any person already engaged by the West Bengal government or allow such person to render any healthcare service who is yet to obtain an express permission in the form of a no-objection certificate from the government.” 

Further, this NOC would only be considered valid if it is signed by the Director of Health Services or Director of Medical Education, or any other subordinate officer authorized by the former. 

In addition to government doctors, the mandatory requirement of getting a NOC certificate is also extended to those staff who are working on an honorary or stipendiary basis or who are bound under agreement with the state government, including house staff, internees, or students.

Detailing the information needed to be provided by the private clinical establishment, the order read that the establishments are required to “submit the copy of such No Objection Certificate (NOC) along with the application and shall display the detail information regarding Name, government designation, hours of availability at that clinical establishment of such person(s).” 

Issuing a warning, the advisory stated that appropriate action would be taken against those who do not comply with the order, and it would be seen as a violation of the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation, and Transparency) Rules, 2017. 

A few months back, the Director of Health Services in the state had observed that various doctors in government hospitals are performing operations in private hospitals under the Swasthya Sathi scheme. The scheme, launched by the West Bengal Chief Minister in 2016, covers the healthcare expenses for secondary and tertiary care up to Rs. 5 lakh per annum per family, which is entirely borne by the state government. Both private and public healthcare providers are eligible for empanelment under the scheme. 

According to the health department, various government doctors who have not acquired a NOC and are receiving a non-practicing allowance have been advising patients to receive treatment at smaller private healthcare units under the Swasthya Sathi Scheme, reports the Telegraph India. An official said, “There’s a rise in Swasthya Sathi claims but a fall in the number of surgeries and procedures done at government hospitals.”

The health official stated, “During audits, it has been revealed that many claims under the Swasthya Sathi scheme are false, or that the bills have been inflated. These are mostly detected at the smaller nursing homes in Calcutta and the districts,” adding, “So, the state government is bleeding — on the one hand, it pays the doctor’s salary and perks, on the other, it has to reimburse private facilities where the doctor gets the patient admitted under Swasthya Sathi.” 

An official said that they also receive complaints about absent doctors who were assigned outpatient duty, which they have assumed is caused by the private practice of the government doctors. 

However, a section of doctors has criticized the current move by the government, as per a media report in the Indian Express, calling it a humiliating experience for them. Stating that the government has a problem with private establishments claiming the Swasthya Scheme, a doctor said, “Small nursing homes are claiming their dues under the Swasthya Sathi scheme. The government feels there is a rise in Swasthya Sathi claims at private hospitals. So instead of doing something about it they are shooting from someone else’s shoulder.”

Dr Manas Gumta, secretary, the Association of Health Service Doctors said, “Nursing homes are pressurizing the government to clear their dues but the latter doesn’t have enough money. Now the government wants to reduce the number of surgeries under the Swasthya Sathi scheme. This is why the notification has been issued for doctors. This is humiliating for them.”

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