Rural stint for doctors turns tricky

The new Act making one-year rural service compulsory for new MBBS doctors is all set to snowball into a major controversy as chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy has already signed an agreement with private medical colleges, exempting management quota students from rural stint.

Representatives of private medical colleges who hold 60% stake in the medical education sector in Andhra Pradesh say since management quota candidates do not get any government aid unlike merit students, it is unfair to force them to do a year's rural stint.

But the consensual agreement signed with the state government two months ago is likely to be overridden as the Centre is firm on fresh medical graduates across all categories doing a rural stint.

Currently, there is one doctor for every 1,950 people, but the ratio gets worse in rural areas as 75% to 80% of hospitals are concentrated in urban areas, whereas 70% of the population live in rural areas. The government might have the best intention to improve services in villages, but private medical colleges said they are not willing to play ball.

"Government is going to get into huge trouble. We will not follow the new rule for management quota seats," said Dr G Bhaskar Rao, president, All India Unaided Medical Colleges and Universities Association. "If the government is unwilling to abide by the consensual agreement approved by the chief minister , we will nullify seat-sharing agreement with the government in our colleges and take over 100% seats," he added. If any of the terms are nullified, there is a clause in the MoU which says colleges will not share seats with the state government, Rao added.

A total of 60% seats in private medical colleges are filled on merit basis through counselling conducted by the NTR University of Health Sciences, while the rest seats are filled under management quota.

According to the Kondru Murali, minister for medical education, there are a whopping 1,468 vacancies in state-run health facilities. With 8,000 undergraduate and postgraduate doctors graduating annually, posting them to districts and villages is a mammoth task, experts said.

The stand on management quota students not doing rural stint has flummoxed experts, besides leaving students in a quandary as the Act states that MBBS graduates will not be allowed to write PG entrance unless they do a rural stint.

An adamant director of medical education Dr Vishnu Prasad said all doctors trained in government and private colleges will have to do one year rural service.

"Every agreement signed in the past ceases to exist. There is no more confusion. Students will have to do rural service," said Dr Prasad.

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