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After Posting Doctors To Clinics, Pb Sends Chos To Rural Centres, Health News, ET HealthWorld

Chandigarh: In a blow to the already weakened rural health services, the Punjab government has started deputing community health officers (CHO) non-physician health workers at subsidiary health centers as replacements for MBBS doctors who have been shifted to newly-opened Aam Aadmi Clinics. (AACs).

The move has raised questions as the CHOs are trained healthcare workers who have very limited healthcare expertise compared to physicians. This ‘band-aid’ decision was taken after the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab government caught some flak for disturbing the existing health system by transferring MBBS doctors from rural dispensaries and other health centers to AACs.

The government launched 400 such new clinics on January 27 and was forced to transfer a large number of doctors and pharmacists from rural dispensaries to these due to shortage of doctors, rendering many rural dispensaries non-functional and leading to protests in many villages.

Citing a telephonic message from the health minister Dr Balbir Singh, civil surgeons have asked senior medical officers to depute CHOs in rural dispensaries, which were closed after doctors were shifted to AACs.

In one such order, a senior medical officer in the Hoshiarpur district on Friday deputed five CHOs to subsidiary health centers till further orders. They have been entrusted with the responsibility of holding OPD and, if needed, referring patients to the nearest AACs for laboratory tests.

Director health services Dr Ranjit Singh Ghotra acknowledged that the CHOs cannot provide services at par with doctors, but asserted that the move of asking them to run the subsidiary health centers was taken so that these centers remained operational and continued to provide services of a certain level. He further said that the process of hiring doctors is going on to fill the vacant sanctioned posts.

Mincing no words, social activities and public health experts Dr Daler Singh Multani, a retired civil surgeon, said it was a way of cheating people and doctors. “CHOs are mid-level service providers who can dispense medicine prescribed by doctors but cannot prescribe medicine on their own. They cannot replace doctors. Government is playing fraud with health services and the health of Punjab,” he said. He further stated that the government forced a failed delhi model in Punjab without doing groundwork.

Accusing the government of damaging the rural health system, rural medical officers (RMOs) said that they would resist and protest if the government deputed CHOs to run subsidiary health centers of the zilla parishads.

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