The state health department, through its affidavit, revealed that as many as 1,005 out of 1,512 permanent sanctioned posts of key medical officers (A-grade) are vacant and are yet to be filled up by way of direct appointments or promotions.

Despite several directions and interventions by the Bombay High Court, the Maharashtra government has failed to fill up nearly two-third of permanent sanctioned posts of key medical officials across all districts.

Instead, as per November 5 data submitted before the HC, the vacancies have increased compared to that of March this year. The state health department, through its affidavit, revealed that as many as 1,005 out of 1,512 permanent sanctioned posts of key medical officers (A-grade) — including deputy directors, district health officers, civil surgeons and special cadre — are vacant and are yet to be filled up by way of direct appointments or promotions. Moreover, it said that the state government has recently directed promotion for posts of nearly 169 medical officers.

Earlier, in March this year, before the lockdown was imposed, the HC had noted that as many as 984 of 1,551 sanctioned posts for government medical officers were vacant. In light of this, the HC’s Aurangabad bench on March 20 had held that “failure of government hospitals to provide timely medical treatment to a person in need amounts to violation of the fundamental right of personal liberty and life with dignity provided by the Constitution”. The HC had then directed the state to fill up the remaining posts in an expedited manner.

The health department is continuously trying to fill up medical and para-medical posts in Ratnagiri and other district hospitals; however, vacancies remain as qualified persons are unwilling to take up new assignments due to the Covid-19 fear and “majority of existing staff are working under fear of local and political pressure”, the government had informed the HC on August 25.

On September 24, the court had directed the petitioning fisherman to suggest ways in which the government can fill up the vacant posts for doctors and health officers after the state informed that its efforts to fill up the posts had been futile.

On November 23, an affidavit was filed by Director of Commissioner of Health Services Sadhana M Tayde on a PIL seeking directions to the state government to take immediate steps to appoint adequate and required medical and para-medical staff to cope with Covid-19 situation in Ratnagiri district and other government hospitals in Maharashtra. The PIL is filed by fisherman Khalil Ahmad Hasanmiya Wasta, through advocate Rakesh Bhatkar.

The affidavit informed the court that as per data updated earlier this month, 125 out of 214 sanctioned posts of permanent district health officers are vacant, whereas 295 of 580 positions of civil surgeons are yet to be filled up. Moreover, 37 of 52 positions of paediatricians are vacant, and 49 of 56 posts of gynaecologists are not filled up yet. The health department further stated that while 32 posts are sanctioned for ENT specialists, only 13 are filled up. Furthermore, out of 31 posts for Tuberculosis (TB) specialist medical officers, 28 are still vacant.

Responding to petitioner’s suggestions, the state public health department, which has a ‘very big network of nearly 1,307 health institutes across Maharashtra’, in its affidavit stated, “There is scarcity of human resource in health care services due to various reasons. To reduce this gap, the department has initiated action by way of appointing contractual medical as well as para-medical staff.”

It added, “Simultaneously, the steps regarding filling up of permanent posts are also initiated. Accordingly, the advertisement to fill up posts of civil surgeons and district health officers is floated and it is at the final stage. But, due to order of the Supreme Court in the reservation matter, it is on hold.”

Moreover, the state government said that it has already initiated the process of filling up the key posts under the National Health Mission and till date, total 26,486 posts of technical and non-technical are filled all over the state.

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