To improve the rural health scenario the government intends to introduce the Bachelor of Rural Healthcare course (BRHC), which will require all medical students to work in rural areas for a period of time. This will see a change in the Postgraduate Medical education guidelines, which will include a 50% reservation quota for medical officers in government service. Also as an added incentive, there will be a 10% increase in their PG marks for each year served in the rural sector by doctors. A three year term will earn doctors an astonishing 30% (the maximum allowed) in the entrance exams for various PG medical courses. The government feels that is the only way to address the staff shortage faced in rural hospitals. However, it seems like a pipedream to have enough doctors working in the rural sector, considering that the country’s top Govt medical institute, AIIMS has a severe staff shortage problem, with doctors leaving in search for better pay and working conditions. The health minister presented no views on his earlier proposal to plug the brain drain, where he suggested that all PG students going to the US for higher studies would be forced to come back after two years and would be ineligible for education abroad.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) opposed to the BRHC course and suggested the following counter-proposals:
- An increased retirement age of 65 for current doctors.
- Re-employ retired doctors with attractive salary and incentives for the rural areas only.
- That the rural service should be one year and compulsory and only when a doctor has served that term will they be allowed to register with the Medical Council of India
- Reservations for PG admission for doctors who have served in rural areas will help.
- The government should also look to open more medical colleges in rural areas and seek private partnership if necessary.