July 26, 2010

Health sector reforms must cover us too: paramedical staff

Even as a serious move is on to bring about reforms in the health sector, particularly in medical education, a huge cadre of paramedical staff feels left out in this entire exercise.

The paramedical and allied health professionals, including the medical laboratory staff working in various scientific and clinical laboratories at various levels of health facilities, have been demanding a comprehensive legislation or a regulatory body to bring about uniformity in educational, employment and hierarchy, and quality of medical laboratory services in the country.

“Without a national perspective of medical technology and uniform standards of medical technologists, any improvement in the quality of health care is impossible,” Kaptan Singh Sehrawat, national convenor of the Joint Forum of Medical Technologists of India, told The Hindu. The Forum is a representative organisation of all medical laboratory staff associations under the Central government, the State governments and autonomous bodies. It is a stakeholder in the proposed Paramedical and Physiotherapy Central Council Bill, which was cleared by the Standing Committee in 2008 but lapsed due to dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha.

There was talk that the government might revive the Bill but it seems the proposal has been put on the backburner once again as the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare intends to come up with a National Council for Human Resource in Health (NCHRH), which would be an overarching body for the health sector with several subsidiary bodies under its purview that would perform various functions.

“It is proposed that all existing councils and regulatory bodies would be covered under the NCHRH. However, while the government held discussions with other stakeholders, no effort was made to take our opinion before finalising the draft,” Mr. Sehrawat said.

At present medical technologists are not only professional graduates, but are post-graduates and even hold doctorates. “Our counterparts abroad are paid much higher emoluments and placed with respected designations such as Medical Laboratory Scientists and Laboratory Technologists having better promotional avenues.

Unfortunately, here we are still longing for basic salaries even in the Centrally-governed institutions due to lack of statutory council or regulations and uniformity in designations. Recruitment rules are outdated which do not reflect actual qualifications and work. Hence, various pay commissions failed to understand and appreciate this category of health stream,'' Mr. Sehrawat said.

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