Maharashtra: Doctors may get degrees only after rural stint
The Maharashtra education department is considering extending the duration of MBBS from the current 5.5. years to 6.5 years. The additional year would be dedicated for rural postings of students. Till they complete a one-year stint, they wouldn't get a degree. This comes right after Maharashtra cancelled the registration of 4,500 doctors for not serving in rural areas, a mandatory provision.
What do the current rules stipulate?
Graduates, post-graduates and super-specialty doctors have to serve in rural areas for a year. If they don't, they have to pay fines of Rs 10L, 50L and 2cr respectively. Twenty years ago, the proposed framework was already in place. But in 1999, the health department said it didn't have enough vacancies to accommodate all graduates. Hence compulsory rural posting before post-graduation was scrapped.
What does the violation by 4,500 doctors mean?
Skipping rural posting and not paying bonds mean many doctors are operating without even a license. They were not acquiring licenses as to get one, they have to produce a bond-free certificate to the Maharashtra Medical Council. Of the 4,500 suspended, some had graduated as long back as 15 years ago. "Working without a license…amounts to quackery," said DMER head Dr Pravin Shingare.
But why are students not following rules?
The objective of the rural year is to provide doctors "exposure to complicated cases", an official said. However, according to Dr. Sagar Mundada, Indian Medical Association youth wing chairman, "The real issue is poor infrastructure at primary health centres." "Except for a handful, no drugs are supplied. Essential materials are of low quality and in poor quantity. The quarters are poorly-maintained," he said.
What steps is the government taking?
After the DMER report flagged 4,500 doctors for skipping rural postings, the Maharashtra government has created a program to deal with such students. Once one enrols in any of the state's 19 medical colleges, they will be given ID numbers linked to their Aadhaar. The software will then track their career graph and check if they have completed the rural posting.
What changes might come about in the course?
If the proposal to extend the course duration is approved by the government, it will impact about 2,800 students every year who pass out from the 19 public medical colleges. Overall, Maharashtra produces 7,000 MBBS graduates annually. "If this proposal gets the nod, students will have to go for rural postings before appearing for their PG entrances."
What does the medical community want?
The medical community thinks this proposal is unfair. A senior professor at JJ Hospital said it would give an advantage to students in private colleges who will save a year and thus can appear for PG before their government college counterparts. Instead, "why can't the government break up the one-year internship tenure and incorporate rural posting without increasing the overall course duration?" suggested Mundada.