Feature Primary Care

More health professionals for rural India

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8339 (Published 07 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8339
  1. Soumya Shivkumar, freelance writer, Mumbai
  1. soumya.shivkumar{at}gmail.com

Not all doctors support the Indian government’s plans to increase the number of medical staff in rural areas by launching a three year qualification, reports Soumya Shivkumar

India’s rural health centres are acutely short of qualified staff. The central government hopes that a new three year degree to create non-physician clinicians will solve this problem. The bachelor of science degree in community health is to be launched in April 2013.1

A condensed form of the MBBS degree

However, controversially, the course is a condensed form of the full bachelor of medicine and surgery (MBBS) degree, and the curriculum has been drafted by the Medical Council of India, which licenses MBBS graduates to practise as doctors.

“Even at the end of five and a half years, doctors who are posted in rural areas might not be able to identify a problem. How could a three and a half year course [including six months’ rural internship] equip them to treat a patient?” asked G K Ramachandrappa, president of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), which has about 190 000 doctor-members.2 He insisted that because this is a paramedical course, graduates must not be registered by the Medical Council of India or the states.

But the government is pressing ahead. “Many people die at primary health centres because of lack of basic treatment, …

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