Med degree in 3½ years for rural docs

December 30, 2009: The Times of India

New Delhi: A medical degree in three-and-a-half years? This could soon be a reality with the health ministry and Medical Council of India planning a shorter medical degree for rural students who would exclusively serve the rural populace. 

The hinterland, where few doctors want to serve, could soon have a dedicated corps of medical practitioners drawn from among these students. 

After incentives failed to lure doctors to remote areas, the health ministry is finalizing a novel scheme along with MCI to start three-and-a-half-year courses in medicine and surgery in institutes set up in rural areas. 

The undergraduate Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery degree would be acquired in two phases and at two levels — community health facility (one-and-a-half-year duration) and sub-divisional hospitals for a further duration of two years. 

The BRMS degree would be offered by institutes in rural areas to 50 students a year. ‘‘Selection would be based on merit in 10+2 with physics, chemistry and biology. A student who studied entirely in a rural area with a population not more than 10,000 would be eligible for selection by professional bodies set up by the Directorate of Medical Education of the states,’’ MCI president Ketan Desai said.

Shorter med degree a bid to address rural doc shortage

New Delhi: MCI president Ketan Desai told TOI that the idea of a medical degree in three-and-a-half years was to get students from rural areas who are willing to work in villages as doctors from outside don’t want to live and work in villages. Many do not even turn up for their assignments. 

Many rounds of discussion on the scheme have taken place between ministry officials and MCI representatives, the last one being on November 17 under the chairmanship of health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. ‘‘At this meeting, many of the operational details were discussed and rough edges ironed out,’’ Desai said. 

The ministry is backing the scheme as it is finding it increasingly difficult to get an adequate number of doctors to serve in rural areas to fulfil the UPA government’s commitments under the National Rural Health Mission. 

To keep BRMS graduates in the loop, MCI is also proposing a parallel mechanism to register them by state medical councils and MCI. ‘‘Registration would be granted provisionally on an annual renewal basis and would only entitle the holders of such innovative medical qualification of 3-1/2 years to practise in a rural set-up in the same district,’’ it said. 

Desai was confident that the scheme would take final shape by March after incorporating the suggestions received during a workshop scheduled for February 4-5, where deans of all 300 medical colleges, vice-chancellors of all medical universities and directors of education of all 29 states would participate. 

All this would be conveyed to a Delhi high court bench comprising chief justice A  Shah and justice S Muralidhar on January 6 by MCI counsel Pratibha Singh.

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