Srinagar: A one-year stint in India’s most backward villages will become compulsory for all MBBS students from the next academic session.
The Union health and family welfare ministry has decided to amend the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act that would make the undergraduate MBBS course six-and-a-half years long instead of the present fiveand-a-half years.
The last year of the course will be spent by students in serving patients in rural India. They will have to spend four months each in a public health centre, community health cell and district headquarters.
They will be based at the district headquarters and will serve under the district health officer. Only on completion of the village stint will the graduates be allowed to practise. The doctors will be given a monthly stipend of Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000 as an incentive to work in these areas.
Union health minister A Ramadoss said, “From 2008-09, it will become mandatory for all MBBS students to work in the villages. We are aware that doctors, in spite of incentives, don’t actually land up in the villages. So we are bringing in a legislation in the winter session to amend the MCI Act and increase the MBBS course by one year. Doctors who don’t work in the villages will not be given their registration to practise.”
India churns out 29,500 medical graduates annually, but most of them are reluctant to serve in villages and would rather join the private sector for better salaries. In effect, rural India is facing an acute shortage of trained medical personnel. Across states nearly 67% of doctors enrolled remain absent from duty.
Former health secretary Prasanna Hota told TOI, “The legislation is still being worked out. The problem is the imbalance in the number of MBBS doctors in every state. Karnataka, for example, has 3,800 MBBS seats while it requires only 1,500 doctors. Orissa has 300 MBBS seats while it needs 800 doctors. Language will be a major problem for a doctor from a particular state being posted in another.” The Union health ministry is also thinking of reviving the Licentiate Medical Practitioners cadre —registered health workers who will be trained to administer primary healthcare under supervision of a licenced medical practitioner to combat doctors’ shortage in rural areas.
An 11-member taskforce on medical education for National Rural Health Mission had proposed a threeyear BSc degree in health sciences to recreate this cadre of medical workers. The course under consideration would also include a six-month internship in community health practice. On completion, these practitioners would be licenced to provide medical services within a notified package in rural India.