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July 23, 2009

One year posting must before PG course

One year rural posting must before PG course

Mumbai: Keen on becoming a doctor then add one more year to become a qualified doctor as the government "in principle" has decided to make one year combined rural posting compulsory eligibility criteria for admission into post graduate (PG) medical courses.

This will lead to medical graduates forced to break education for at least a year before seeking admission into PG courses.

The statement made by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad caused a commotion in Lok Sabha.

"The decision will make sure the availability of doctors in rural areas," Azad said.

During the rural postings, MBBS doctors would be attached to Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres (CHCs).

This statement should not come as a surprise as Azad's predecessor Anbumani Ramadoss had also triggered strong protests from medical students across the country, when he mooted a similar plan, resulting the former minister to withdraw.

However, Azad's statement came as a shock to many, as the ministry had only recently declared that the government would provide special incentives to doctors that are willing to work in rural areas, instead of making rural postings compulsory.

The government had also said that they would double the salary of doctors who want to work in villages.

Even plans to hire retired doctors on contract basis to combat the shortage is being considered.

"To make sure there is availability of doctors in rural areas, the government has, in principle, decided to make one year combined rural posting in PHCs and CHCs under the state governments, mandatory for MBBS doctors that are eligible for admission to PG courses," Azad said.

To complete MBBS, it takes five years including one year internship, and three years to get an MD.

With this new order, a student would now have to spend nine years to emerge as an MD.

The order has not gone down well with the students, who feel one year is too long a period to be spent in villages but do not have issues for a 3-6 month long stint.

"There are few things which should be considered before implementing this diktat. First of all, the government must hike the stipend offered to the students. In many states, the stipend given is so less that students end up seeking money from their parents for survival. It is completely unfair to force students to work without pay or on very low salaries.

Secondly, MBBS students are not well-versed to handle emergency situations in rural areas that are already poor in medical infrastructure. And third, it is unfair to send female students to rural areas without ensuring their security arrangements," said a PG student at AIIMS.

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