Court asks for details on rural medical degree

Directs govt to furnish clarifications on short-term degree

sonal

Sonal Matharu | March 11, 2010



The Delhi High court has asked the government to provide details on the short-term medical degree the government had proposed to meet the shortage of doctors in rural areas of the country.

The bench comprising Chief Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Mukta Gupta asked the health ministry on Wednesday whether the recommendations made by the Task Force Report on medical education and reforms were being considered or not.

The Task Force formed by the central government had submitted its report in 2006. It recommended that community health practitioners would not be able to deliver better health services in the rural areas. So, it said, better training instead of a separate cadre of rural health providers was required.

“The community health workers will be able to meet the immediate healthcare requirements of the community they are serving,” said Meenakshi Gautham, researcher in rural healthcare, who is also the petitioner.

The health ministry in its response to the public interest litigation filed in the court on neglect of rural healthcare proposed a three-and-a-half year course, called Bachelor of Rural Healthcare. Students belonging to the rural areas with science as the main subject in 10+2 would be allowed to enrol for this course and on completion of the course would serve in their respective districts at the district hospitals. This course proposed by the health ministry has been designed by the Medical Council of India (MCI).

Dr. K.M. Shyamprasad, a member of the task force said, “A lot of districts in India do not have a district hospital. Where will they open a district medical college at such places? The MCI-proposed course is not in sync with reality.”

Representatives from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Ayush department of the health ministry also wanted to be respondents in the case but the bench asked the government to give a detailed response first. 

The MCI has opposed a course for rural healthcare practitioners three times in the past. First in 2000, when Calcuta medical college wanted to start a three-year course in rural medicine, second was in 2003 when the Planning Commission suggested a three-year course in rural healthcare and later in 2006 when the Task Force recommendations came out.

“In 2006, the MCI said no short-term course for rural healthcare could be implemented as it would be against the law. Under what law are they bringing up this Bachelor of Rural Healthcare course now?” asked Dr. Shyamprasad.

The next hearing of the case will be on April 7.

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