December 25, 2008

Special chips in mobiles to keep tab on Bihar doctors

Remember the Bollywood flick in which a cop fits a chip in the body of a habitual law-breaker to keep a tab on his movement? Though
government doctors in Bihar are no law-breakers, the health department has adopted a similar method to track them on field duty.

The department has entered into an agreement with BSNL which entails distribution of about 8,000 mobile phones and Sim cards fitted with special kind of chips. The chips would allow the department's bosses, if they wish, to find out the location of a doctor by dialling his or her mobile number. The locational details, if requested, would be provided by the service provider

While the department has decided to provide a talk time of Rs 500 every month to doctors who would be given these mobile phones, it has also issued directives that the phones should not be switched off in any circumstances.

"We keep on receiving complaints that many doctors do not live at places of their postings causing problems to patients," health minister Nand Kishore Yadav said, adding, "The new system would help us get the real picture."

Yadav said that in the first phase all civil surgeons have been provided with the chip-fitted mobile phones and very soon other doctors and field officials too would be given the phones. "Our sole intention is to ensure presence of doctors in the field and those found missing from places of their posting without proper reason would have to face the music," he added.

The minister's assertion notwithstanding, the Bihar State Health Services Association (BSHSA), a body of government doctors, has termed the move a discriminatory one. "Why doctors only? Field officials of all other departments should also be brought under the new system," BSHSA spokesperson Dr Ranjit Kumar said.

He said singling out doctors would send a wrong message among the medical fraternity as they would be forced to believe that they are the favourite whipping boy of the government.

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