November 27, 2009

Govt plans to bring back diploma docs for villages

Desperate to address manpower crunch in the rural healthcare system, the state government has apparently decided to resurrect the ‘barefoot doctors’ of the early ’80s in a new avatar through the West Bengal Rural Health Regulatory Authority Bill 2009.

Once the regulatory authority is set up, it will pave the way for insitutes that will train and issue diplomas to rural health practitioners.

During the ’80s experiment, the diploma-holding ‘doctors’ had faced stiff opposition from the medical community. The latest bill, which will be introduced in the Assembly this Winter Session, is also likely to kick up a ruckus. Congress and Trinamool are ready to oppose it. As in the ’80s, the medical community is again prepared to take on the government.

Eligible to practice in rural areas, rural health practitioners will treat patients and prescribe medicines according to a standard treatment guideline to be handed to them. They will also carry out minor surgeries and issue illness and death certificates.

Doctors have raised their voices against the move. The Medical Council of India doesn’t recognise the diploma, neither does the West Bengal Medical Council. The state health department has cited the instance of Assam, where similar legislation was enacted in 2004.

“The government had tried this in the past and failed miserably. There is no doubt that Bengal has a shortage of doctors, but creating rural health practitioners is not the solution. More medical colleges — both government and private — should be set up,” said Subir Ganguly, ex-president Indian Medical Association (Bengal chapter).

Recently, some IMA members met Trinamool MLA Aroop Biswas, a member of the Assembly’s standing committee on health, and stated their objections. Objections have been raised on the usage of the term rural health practitioner and also granting them permission to issue death certificates.

“The government claims there is a shortage of doctors. How many times have they issued advertisements through the Public Service Commission for empanelling doctors? How many doctors have been recruited in the last five or 10 years?” asked a senior IMA (Bengal) member.

“Promode Dasgupta tried this and failed. I don’t know why Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is trying to do the same thing. We will oppose it,” said Manas Bhunia, Congress legislature party leader.

Trinamool’s newly-elected MLA from Serampore Sudipto Roy, former president of IMA (Calcutta), said the Bill discriminates between urban and rural areas. “Why should there be two sets of doctors for urban and rural areas? Government should identify the number of vacancies and fill them up,” Roy said.

Doctors said the manpower crunch can be addressed by making all MBBS passouts serve a compulsory stint in villages. They also called for campus recruitment from medical colleges.

Link: Original Article

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