New Delhi: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi has a huge health network under its jurisdiction with at least 10 hospitals, three chest hospitals, 11 polyclinics, nine chest clinics, 36 public health centres, 15 maternity homes and 36 maternity and childcare centres. These facilities, however, aren’t at the peak of their health. They were constructed a long time ago and are in dire need of upgrades and renovation. Manpower too is inadequate, not helped by the delays in payment of salaries to health staff.
Staffing is a big problem with a shortage caused by non-recruitment. “There currently are 789 vacancies in group A, which includes doctors and nurses, 880 in group B and 3,589 in group C. We are making efforts to have the vacancies filled,” claimed an MCD official.
Delayed salaries forced doctors’ unions and healthcare workers to take to the streets in protest in 2020 and 2021. A unified MCD may better bridge the salary gaps, feel experts, but injection of funds and resources are necessary. One civic official said, “MCD requires Rs 90 crore every month to pay the health sector salaries. At present, salaries of a month are pending for doctors, nurses and health workers of the erstwhile north corporation and of two months in the case of the erstwhile east corporation.” Some doctors contended that salaries of two months in the north body and three in the east corporations were actually pending.
A doctor said that the shortage of manpower was affecting the quality of medical services. Another explained, “As far as the fresh recruitment is concerned, the MCD’s central establishment department forwards the requirement to the Union Public Service Commission. However, due to the salary crisis, health workers are wary of joining MCD hospitals.”
Inadequate equipment is also a problem. Municipal officials said that equipment was procured as per demand and priority and availability of funds. “In some hospitals, we take the help of NGOs to establish free or affordable facilities,” said one official. “For example, last year, a commercial company supported us in creating dialysis centres at Tilak Nagar Hospital and Purnima Sethi Hospital. The Rotary Club helped us create an operation theatre at Tilak Nagar hospital this year.”
Experts feel that MCD ideally should focus on primary healthcare and leave hospital and multi-specialty services to the state and central governments.
Atul Goel, president, URJA, a body of residents’ associations, rued the politics in healthcare in Delhi. “There is much rivalry among the political parties in the capital. For instance, AAP opened mohalla clinics instead of helping MCD to strengthen primary healthcare units or mother and child centres. When the infrastructure was existing, what was the point of taking up new spaces to create mohalla clinics?”
Goel added, “Likewise, the BJP-led MCD always refused to transfer hospitals to the state government even after failing to redevelop major hospitals like Rajan Babu or make others such as Purnima Sethi and Mata Gujri hospitals fully operational years after their construction.”
In 2021, the executive wing of the erstwhile north corporation proposed to transfer its six hospitals to the Centre on the ground that the civic body didn’t have the resources to meet the expenses or pay the salaries. “The proposal was sent to the Centre, but the matter is still under consideration,” said an MCD official, adding that “a view has to be taken from senior officials” on approaching the central government again.