The MBBS doctors aspiring to pursue post-graduation will now have to compulsorily undertake a one-year rural posting before becoming eligible for such a course.
In a major decision aimed at improving rural healthcare in India, the Union government has decided to make it mandatory for all MBBS doctors to undergo one year rural posting to sit for post-graduation entrance examination.
According to health ministry sources, a proposal to this effect was cleared by the ministry recently and Medical Council of India (MCI) is in the process of issuing a notification.
"The decision will be applicable from the next academic session (2014-15). All MBBS graduates seeking a post-graduate degree would have to work for one year in a village before they can take the PG entrance examination," said a senior official. He said the MBBS course structure and duration will remain the same.
The decision came after two years of deliberations, as the earlier proposal of increasing the duration of the MBBS course to include a rural posting for doctors was scuttled after stiff opposition.
But now the ministry seems to have decided on it in view of the scarcity of medical professional in medical facilities in the rural areas. Health ministry statistics show there is more than 60% shortage of general doctors and over 80% of specialist doctors in rural India.
"The initiative to make rural posting compulsory is key to addressing the need of more doctors for rural areas. It will be notified soon," said Dr Jagdish Prasad, the Director General of Health Services (DGHS).
A senior MCI official said, "Those candidates who do not want to do a rural posting would be free to practice MBBS after they get their degrees following the internship. The MBBS course structure and duration will remain the same. The only change is one year rural posting will be made the eligibility condition for those wanting to pursue MD and MS."
Earlier, there was a proposal to increase the current duration of the MBBS course by one year and use the additional year for a village posting of MBBS students. The proposal wasn't found feasible as it meant that students would only get provisional MBBS degrees at the completion of their internship and final MBBS degrees only after the completion of a rural posting.
Every year, close to 40,000 students graduate with MBBS and most of them wish to pursue post graduation. The move, skeptics say, may hit students' zeal to go in for higher medical education unless suitably modified to reward them for undertaking a rural posting.
MCI sources said MBBS doctors going for rural posting from the next year may be given financial incentives but that component of the proposal is yet to be finalized.