The Union Health Ministry’s decision to run the out-patient department (OPD) at the Centre-run Safdarjung Hospital for 12 hours daily, before implementing it across hospitals, has not gone down well with doctors. According to the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) at Safdarjung Hospital, there is an urgent need to first address the crippling staff shortage. At present, OPDs in hospitals, including Safdarjung, are run for five hours — 8 am to 1 pm. Special afternoon clinics are also run for diseases like diabetes.
With the new proposal, OPD clinics will have to function from 8 am to 8 pm. “The move is aimed at providing medical services to patients round-the-clock,” said a health ministry official, adding that the plan was to implement it across hospitals after Safdarjung.
The RDA at Safdarjung Hospital, however, said that the move could only succeed if there were enough doctors. “We are not against the proposal, but the administration has to increase manpower to offer 12-hour OPD service. There is a shortage of doctors, and they already work under too much stress. Extending the timings would only add further pressure on them…,” said a resident doctor.
For now, the medical superintendent of Safdarjung Hospital has directed different departments to give their feedback and submit strategies to work better during extended working hours. However, doctors across Centre-run hospitals in the city reiterated similar concerns.
While Safdarjung Hospital is short of 423 doctors as of last year, Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital is short of 157 doctors. “RML is the biggest hospital in the city after AIIMS. It sees 7,000-8,000 patients every day in its OPD… but at the same time, it has one bed per 55 patients or so,” said a doctor at the hospital. At Lady Hardinge Medical College, there is a shortage of 152 doctors, while AIIMS is short of around 863 doctors, as per 2017 records. “The 12-hour window for OPD is a great idea. But it is not thought out as doctors are under immense pressure,” said a doctor at AIIMS.