Panel objects to proposed rural healthcare course

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi AzadwebNEW DELHI: In a major setback to government’s effort to improve rural health infrastructure, a Parliamentary Committee has opposed introduction of an undergraduate community health course to create a new pool of healthcare professionals.
The Committee has instead recommended compulsory one-year rural posting for fresh medical graduates to meet the shortage of doctors in rural areas.
The government had proposed introduction of a 3.5-year Bachelor of Rural Healthcare course, rechristened as BSc (Community Health) course, from the current session to produce Community Health Officers (CHOs) in rural India which did not have adequate number of doctors.
“In view of the opinion of a majority of members opposing introduction of BSc (Community Health) course, the Committee recommended that the government should not go ahead with the proposal for introduction of the course,” the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare said.
The panel, headed by Brajesh Pathak, said the government should continue its focus on strengthening the existing health care infrastructure by increasing intake of MBBS doctors and making provision of one-year compulsory rural posting for them after internship, which would help in providing healthcare for rural people.
Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had recently stated in Parliament that the proposed course was likely to be introduced in the states willing to adopt it from academic 2013-14.
Azad had also said that medical bodies like the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have not welcomed the proposal, but the government is committed to introduce the course, with inbuilt safeguards, to address the serious shortage of human resources in health sector in rural areas.
The panel recommended that to improve healthcare infrastructure in rural areas more medical colleges should be opened to meet shortage of doctors.
It also recommended that more nursing graduates may be posted in sub-centers and intake of nursing graduates may be increased in the nursing schools.
The Committee in its 65th Report to Parliament further recommended that to meet the immediate demand, graduates and post-graduates in the AYUSH stream may be appointed.
“The Committee is, however, constrained to note that a very substantial portion of primary healthcare is provided by untrained providers and often by quacks and there is acute shortage of healthcare professionals in rural areas.
“The Committee would, therefore, like the Ministry to devote its energies towards devising new strategies to overcome this gigantic problem,” the report said.
During its meetings, a majority of the members were against introduction of the course on the grounds that providing two different sets of health facilitators for urban and rural masses was not only “ethically wrong” but also “unconstitutional”.
Some members also raised serious apprehensions on clinical competencies of graduates who would be churned out of these schools and how the government would ensure that such graduates would not do private practice. -PTI

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