Nothing can be more bizarre than the country’s supreme court interfering to ensure that the wages are paid without any dues to doctors and healthcare staff at the forefront of the fight against coronavirus. There was a spark of hope that the pandemic would eventually transfer focus and attention to the healthcare sector, which didn’t happen.
The Supreme Court had said that the country can not afford to have unhappy soldiers in the fight against the pandemic, taking careful note of the non-payment of wages to doctors treating COVID-19 patients, and asked officials to collect funds for them.
Working without Salary
The observations of the Supreme Court came after public attention was gained by the studies of two hospitals in the national capital. More than 350 resident doctors in some hospitals have threatened to withdraw en masse for the past three to four months, citing non-payment of salaries. Recently, news has emerged that under the North MCD, more than 3,000 health employees have not been compensated with salary arrears over the past three months.
Slashing the Salary
As the government changes expenditure against the declining revenue, in the form of wage cuts and delayed payments, healthcare workers are presented with yet another inconvenience. Since the imposition of a national lock-down, doctors in the state health service, medical education department, and students doing their internship have been facing pay cuts.
In Mumbai, doctors working in hospitals run by civic bodies have taken pay cuts of between 30-50%. Similar pay cuts were also earned by citizens working in the operation of BMC hospitals. In the meantime, as part of its wage challenge to cope with the financial crisis raised by COVID-19, the government of Kerala moved an order for all employees, including doctors and healthcare personnel working in state-run hospitals and clinics, to receive a salary cut.
As per the law, for a period of five months, a sum equal to a month’s pay would be mandatorily deducted from the employee’s account. The Kerala High Court, however, stayed the order issued by the Government by noting that no provision of law approved the decision to cut wages.
A private hospital based in Bengaluru has also declared a 30 percent to 50 percent pay cut for physicians after their occupancy dropped to less than 15 percent. Consultant doctors who see patients at various hospitals are also feeling the pinch with a 90% decline in OPD consultations.
The Canadian Government is doing its hardest to keep up the morale of its frontline healthcare workers even amid the pandemic. In a similar change, the Government of West Bengal recently raised the stipends of the state’s junior doctors and interns.
Governments and authorities across the country must take similar measures and steps, as such gestures not only ensure financial support but also help raise the morale and strength of doctors during the times of hardships.