Docs spurn rural service incentives

To counter the dearth of doctors in villages, the Centre had drawn up two schemes for attracting fresh MBBS graduates and serving government doctors in village centres. Even though both were conceived after wide consultation, there are hardly any takers.

For medical students, the Centre’s plan was to provide extra marks in the post-graduate entrance examination. If a student served one year in a designated rural area, he or she would get 10 per cent weightage at the PG entrance.

The weightage would increase to 20 and 30 per cent, respectively, after the second and third years of their rural stint. However, three years would be the ceiling.

Similarly, for government doctors seeking to improve their educational qualifications, the offer was 50 per cent reservation in diploma courses if they served in rural areas for three years. The response again was dismal.

“The fraternity showed total apathy for rural areas. There was no response from them,” Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

While the overall doctor-to-patient ratio stands at 1: 860, the situation is far worse in the hinterland. According to Central Bureau of Health Intelligence statistics for 2005, the average population served by government doctors ranges from a manageable 661 in Chandigarh to a whopping 64,182 in Andhra Pradesh.

The problem is further complicated because of the strong medical lobby against allowing the Indian system of medicine doctors to implement government schemes for basic healthcare. Besides, stumbling blocks faced in the creation of healthcare cadre has left the rural population at the mercy of quacks.

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