Contract basis Medical Officers, MOs, who have been appointed by the government as contractual medical officers for Covid-19 in all the districts of Manipur have not been paid in the last two months despite their hard work and putting their lives at risk by going to work every day as front line workers during this harsh pandemic. In total, there are 151 doctors who have not been paid in the last two months by the Government of Manipur. The doctors in all these districts are suffering due to nonreceipt payment on time. All the doctors jointly discussed this matter and decided to go to the chief minister of Manipur, Nongthombam Biren Singh, and he said that the doctors “should contact the Health Directorate” regarding this matter.
The doctors have also called the helpline number provided by the Government of Manipur but no help could be ascertained. The doctors went to the Health Directorate’s office which is situated opposite to RIMS hospital but in vain. They could not get any help. While many are posted in Imphal where the pressure on the medical facilities is the most acute, some are posted in the hill districts.
The Health Department of the Manipur government had assured to the doctors earlier in a memorandum regarding the timely payment of honorarium to the doctors who fall under contractual and daily wages staff engaged on Covid-19 duties, stating clearly that the honorarium/wages to contractual and daily wages staff engaged on Covid-19 duties are to be “processed and disbursed in a timely manner without delay”.
The memorandum also states that the CMOs, Medical Superintendents, Officer-in-charge CCCs,CHs and other concerned Field Officers shall furnish wage/incentive details on a weekly instead of monthly basis to the Directorate of Health Services so that there is no delay in compilation at the end of the month. It further states that the monthly proposal for wages/incentives shall be submitted to Secretariat, Health Department by the Health Directorate latest by 5th day of every month and the Directorate will not wait for complete compilation and any pending cases of wages/incentives payment for the month will be carried forward and included in the wages/incentives for the next month.
It also informs that the wages for contractual staff are being prepared for the whole month without accounting for rest days such as Sundays and other holidays and that the renumeration will be liable only for duty days and all CMOs, Officers-in-charge CCCs and other field officers should follow permissible guidelines while submitting wage/incentive proposals. This memorandum was released by the Deputy Secretary (Health &FW), Government of Manipur, Soiminlian Lengen.
The doctors are supposed to get Rs. 75,000 every month as their salary. Some of the doctors are also sole bread earners of their families and that is also why they are suffering more than others.
Dr. Iqbal who is currently posted in Thoubal district said, “I am working as an MO in CHIC team. I need to travel almost every day from home and no salary has been given for the last two months and it has become a problem to go to work now. Above all these, the price hike of petrol in Manipur has added to our burden. Travelling expenses is huge as it takes at least Rs. 10,000 a month. And there is no sign of getting our due salary even today. Needless to mention, almost all Covid Care centers are run by newly recruited contractual MOs. Only few of regular MOs are working in CCC and that too in administrative side. Despite selfless dedication and hard work, government is denying us our wages. Our concerned directorate is also turning a blind eye to us.”
Another doctor who wants to remain anonymous said, “I am one of the many contractual Covid-19 MO posted in one of the centers. We have been working honestly and catering to the needs of patients 24 hours a day, we are risking our lives. I belong to a middleclass family and it is hard for us to meet our needs as it has been a hard time for our family and for many others like me. To be honest, the general public might say that we are doctors and that is why we need to serve the public without complaints but I would everyone to remember that we are humans too and we have families to feed. So far, the suthorities have not given us any positive response and it has always been in our state, this kind of happenings. I would be thankful if the government pays heed to us and understand pur needs so that we can continue to work in our best conditions.”
Most of the doctors are preferring to remain silent because they are afraid that if they voice their opinions, they might end up losing their jobs, despite delays of payment. Another doctor who is posted in Ukhrul district said, “We are having a very hard time. We are away from our families and we are being sent in a war zone where we risk our safety every day. The least the authorities can do is to empathize with us and pay us as they are supposed to. I also speak on behalf of all the 151 doctors posted in different districts for Covid-19 care. We are contractual Medical Officers, some of us work in Covid-19 isolation wards. We don’t mind wearing PPE kits in this hot summer or going near, many times a day, near critical Covid-19 patients but we honestly feel very discouraged sometimes because we feel that despite risking our mental and physical health, we are being taken for granted as we feel that the Government of Manipur do not appreciate our efforts as we are not even being paid on time. Without regular, pay, it is very discouraging.”
Writer at IRAP