The Bombay High Court’s Aurangabad bench recently observed that even a year after passing of orders directing to fill up vacancies of doctors in government hospitals along with other medical staff, enough steps do not appear to have been taken and the court cannot approve of such ‘apathy’.
The HC said the large number of vacancies would create more burden on existing healthcare staff in treating Covid patients and directed the state to take expeditious steps to fill up the vacancies on ‘priority basis’.
A division bench of Justice Sanjay V Gangapurwala and Justice Shrikant D Kulkarni on May 7 was hearing a PIL, filed by Aurangabad MP Syed Imtiaz Jaleel, seeking to fill up vacant posts of doctors at Aurangabad government hospitals and those run by local bodies.
Jaleel, who appeared in person, submitted that a large number of class I to class-IV posts are vacant in government hospitals and no steps are being taken to fill those posts. He submitted that nearly 2,048 posts are vacant in various government, municipal and zilla parishad hospitals and health centres in Aurangabad.
He said the authorities had in June last year decided to fill up all posts, including that of doctors, nurses, ward boys and other healthcare staff, whereas only half of the posts were filled up till March this year and the same should be appointed at the earliest.
Additional Government Pleader S G Karlekar said 50 percent of the vacant posts would be filled within three months.
After perusing submissions, the bench took a ‘judicial note’ of Covid-19 spread being ‘at its peak; and said, “Lack of infrastructure and necessary manpower are impediments to tackle the surge Covid-19 patients. The government is required to take steps to fill such vacancies at its earliest and on priority basis.”
The bench also referred to an HC order of March 28 last year wherein it had observed large vacancies were to be filled up in state health department and had asked the state to take necessary steps in expeditious manner ‘in the interest of public at large’ while the pandemic was in its ‘incipient stage’.
In March last year, the High Court had noted that as many as 984 out of 1,551 sanctioned posts for government medical officers were vacant. As per data submitted by the state health department before the HC in November last year, nearly two-third of permanent sanctioned posts (1,005 out of 1,512) of key medical officials across all districts were also vacant.
“Even after one year of the passing of this order, the steps do not appear to have been taken. We cannot approve of such apathy in filling up the vacancies. The large number of vacancies would create more burden and pressure on the existing doctors, nurses and other staff treating the Covid-19 patients.”
The court said the state should start filling up vacancies in the health department and ramp up the infrastructure, preferably within a week from date of order, and ensure that within six to eight weeks, the vacancies are filled up.
Seeking detailed reply from authorities on the current number of vacant medical posts, the HC posted the next hearing to June 14.