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IMA joins issue with health ministry on short-term medical course

NEW DELHI: A day after TOI reported on the Union health ministry’s plans to roll out the 3.5-year medical degree, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) asked the Medical Council of India (MCI) not to compromise on patients’ safety.

Reacting to the three-week ultimatum given by Union health minister Ghulab Nabi Azad to the MCI on the BRM (Bachelor of Rural Medicine), national president of IMA Dr Vinay Aggarwal on Tuesday said the MCI would not bend before the government and refused to endorse the course. IMA called for more debates ahead of falling in line with the government’s directive. “IMA is willing to cooperate with the government to find a solution on rural health,” the letter said.

It added, “There are better ways to overcome the shortage of modern medicine professionals in rural area. Lowering the standard of medical education and producing low-quality professionals is not the solution.”

Dr Aggarwal said, the MCI is mandated to upkeep certain standards and cannot be bullied. “It is duty bound to consider patient safety and cannot obliviously reverse a process initiated by the Bhore Committee report of 1946 to abolish such mediocre short-term courses.” IMA says it is not convinced about the government’s intentions on BRM.

“The notion that over 30% of primary health centres do not have a MBBS doctor is not supported by statistics. Only 5.3% of PHCs are without a qualified doctor. For whatever small shortfall that exists, compulsory rural health posting of MBBS graduates for one-year after internship would make available 30,000 MBBS graduates every year. The National Human Rights Commission has come out against such a course, and has termed it as discrimination,” IMA said.

TOI on Tuesday had reported that Azad set the MCI a three-week deadline to endorse this new course, failing which the ministry will issue a directive to the MCI to recognize and roll out the course. Azad had said that the course had enjoyed the backing of all the state governments for long, and attributed the tardiness to MCI’s apathetic attitude.

“We have made up our mind to introduce the Bachelor of Rural Medicine degree. Sometimes the MCI gets influenced by its own fraternity. With doctors unwilling to serve in rural areas, even after being given incentives, we are left with no choice but to introduce a new cadre of health workers,” Azad had told TOI.

He had added, “We want an MCI stamp on the degree so that it is universally recognized. The syllabus of the course is ready and it is need based. If MCI endorses it, students will get the confidence that the degree has a standing. If MCI does not agree, we will send them a directive which they have to adhere to.”

Union health secretary P K Pradhan had added, “They will be rural public health officers and will look after primary and preventive healthcare. They will not carry out surgeries.”

Sources:- Times of India

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