Aspiring doctors will have to spend a year working in rural areas before getting their MBBS degrees, as the government has decided to make rural posting compulsory for them.
In a letter to the Medical Council of India (MCI), the Health Ministry has asked its Board of Governors to make rural posting for doctors mandatory and include it in the MBBS course curriculum.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said doctors will be attached with the Ministry's flagship National Rural Health Mission during the year-long rural posting which will also help improve health care services in villages.
Once this proposal becomes part of MBBS curriculum, a medical student, after completing 4.5 years of study and thereafter the hospital internship, will have to undergo a mandatory year-long house job in the form of a rural posting before getting the MBBS degree. Till then, the degree would be provisional.
Chairman of MCI Board of Governors K K Talwar told PTI that the one-year compulsory rural posting for doctors is in the offing and modalities in this respect are being worked out. The posting would be made mandatory in a designated rural area.
"We are working on this. A mechanism is being evolved in this regard. An expert committee is looking into this and will recommend modalities in its meeting soon, after which the details worked out will be sent to the Health Ministry for its approval," Mr Talwar said.
Sources say the government is working to do away with the compulsory three-month rural posting during the year-long MBBS internship and the same will be made part of the one-year rural house job with an NRHM facility henceforth.
Mr Talwar said this one-year mandatory rural posting will help aspiring doctors to learn from senior doctors who will act as mentors in the rural area.
The MBBS graduates, he said, will be attached with a rural hospital and a nearby medical college during this one-year period.
They will also get a reasonable stipend from the NRHM for their services during this period, he said.
Justifying the proposal, Mr Azad said it takes almost seven years or even more to become a doctor and to actually get the permission to start prescribing medicines in developed countries whereas the MBBS course duration in India is much shorter.
The Minister said due to the shorter duration of the course here than in the developed nations, many students prefer to study MBBS course in India and then carry out higher studies abroad.
Talwar also said that it takes seven to eight years to obtain a medical undergraduate degree in most countries and studying in India is also cheaper than in the developed world.
"The rural posting will go in favour of students aspiring to be doctors as it will help them upgrade their skills when mentored by senior doctors. The provision will give them peripheral exposure while also granting them reasonable facilities where they can hone their skills," he said.
He said the Council will make all such recommendations to the Health Ministry soon before this proposal is implemented.
Government's efforts to attract doctors for rural postings through various incentives earlier did not yield any fruit, as there were no takers for 50 per cent reservation in postgraduate courses for MBBS doctors who opted for rural stints after taking undergraduate degree.
MBBS students who did a year of rural service were to get 10 marks as additional weightage in MD examination, while those who did three years service in backward areas were to get 30 marks. The scheme did not have a single taker.
"I say it with regret that our doctors have decided not to go to rural areas. Nobody has come forward to avail of the incentives offered by the Government," Mr Azad had said in Parliament last week.