As exclusively reported by the Nation last week, a proposal has been made by the health ministry to start paid channelling of doctors in government hospitals after 4pm. This will encourage patients who are able to afford a reasonable fee to consult doctors of their choice in the evening while it will help poorer patients by shortening the long queues in the mornings.
Currently channelled practice is confined to popular consultants who have established themselves in the private hospitals in the main cities. As a result, it is not easy for newly qualified consultants to enter this lucrative field even if they have excellent skills. The proposed system is expected to create new opportunities through the state hospitals and therefore likely to receive the support of young doctors who have qualified as consultants recently.
It will also create new opportunities for nurses, paramedics and other employees to make extra income by way of overtime payments and other incentives for working after their normal duty hours. If the scheme is successfully implemented, it will also generate new income to the government which can be utilized to upgrade the existing health service.
The other advantage is that some of the costly medical devices like CT scanner and ultra sound systems can be put to good use while they are still within the guarantee period without allowing them to idle in the evenings thereby saving some money to the government.
While some have expressed reservations about this proposal the majority of the professionals connected to the health field seem to be supportive of the idea. However it is true that the implementation of such a proposal should be done in a meticulous manner so that hospital employees who are willing to work in the evenings will not neglect their duties in the morning hours.
Similarly no doctor or any other staff of the hospitals should influence patients to obtain paid services in the evenings and the decision to come in the morning or in the evening should be taken by the patients alone depending on their convenience and the need.
The possibility of sharing some of the facilities available in the private hospitals where such facilities are in shortage in the specialized surgical units of the state hospitals is another proposal that has been made. The idea is for the government to bear the relevant cost while the patient has to bear only ICU or other room charges during the immediate post-operation period until the patient is transferred back to the relevant government hospital. This method can substantially reduce the current waiting lists in places like the cardiology units.
If these proposals are carefully implemented in a manner the real benefits will accrue to the deserving patients, it could be a revolutionary measure that will enable the government to modernize the health sector to suit the current needs of our country. Eventually the process can be developed as a great measure to bring down the escalating health bills of the people while the available resources can be fully utilized.