July 03, 2009

Rural postings to fetch doctors double pay

Doctors willing to work in India's most far flung and inaccessible areas may soon earn double of what their urban counterparts do in a decision borne out of the recognition that cash to the far flung areas.

In order to provide quality healthcare to people in isolated regionsunder the National Rural Health Mission, the health ministry has decided to identify "difficult, most difficult and inaccessible areas, particularly in hilly states, northeastern states and tribal areas" where primary health centres (PHCs) would be set up.

The ministry, through NRHM, will then make funds available for contractual appointments of doctors and paramedical staff and "provide significantly higher monetary incentives based on location of posting".

Even though PHCs are the first port of call for the sick in rural areas, the majority of them have no trained medical personnel.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "There has been a significant increase in attendance of out-patients and in-patient cases in PHCs and community health centres (CHCs) under the NRHM. But more needs to be done for remote parts of the country."

He added, "Because of lack of incentives from state governments, no doctor wants to work in the country's most backward areas. We will therefore identify the most isolated areas, pinpoint where the state can set up a PHC and then give them funds to hire doctors on contract."

On the ministry's earlier proposal about making a one-year stint in villages compulsory for all MBBS students, Azad said this could form part of a long-term solution plan being devised by the ministry.

According to an NRHM report earlier, nearly 8% PHCs don't have a doctor while nearly 39% were running without a lab technician and about 17.7% without a pharmacist. To compound the problem, PHCs in some states don't have adequate labour rooms and operation theatres.

The condition of CHCs, supposed to provide specialised medical care, is equally appalling. Out of the sanctioned posts, about 59.4% of surgeons, 45% of obstetricians and gynaecologists, 61.1% of physicians and 53.8% of paediatricians were found to be vacant. Moreover, there was a shortfall of 70.2% specialists at the CHCs.

Azad also promised setting up of a National Council for Human Resources in Health -- an overarching regulatory body that will look to enhance skilled medical personnel.

India is short of 6 lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and 2 lakh dental surgeons because of which it has a dismal patient-doctor ratio. For every 10,000 Indians, there is one doctor.

"One of the major bottlenecks in our efforts to improve the public healthcare system is the overwhelming shortage of specialist doctors and paramedical personnel. We are therefore formulating a scheme for strengthening and upgradation of state government medical colleges to increase post-graduate medical seats in departments where there is critical shortage like gynaecology, anaesthesia and paediatrics," Azad said, while announcing his 100-day agenda for the health sector.

Link: Original Article

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