New Delhi, Aug. 9: Delhi High Court today gave the Medical Council of India six weeks to finalise the syllabus of a new educational course to train health care providers for rural areas, pledged by the government more than two years ago.
The court, responding to a contempt petition against MCI chairperson K.K. Talwar and Union health secretary P.K. Pradhan, said the delay in preparing the syllabus is "unsatisfactory" and directed the MCI to finalise it within six weeks, a lawyer involved in the petition said.
The Union health ministry and the MCI had in early 2010 announced their support for the Bachelor of Rural Health Care (BRHC) programme to train rural residents in medical skills to enable them to diagnose and treat certain illnesses and trauma.
But the Indian Medical Association, representing sections of doctors, has opposed the idea claiming the course will produce "half-baked" health care providers not adequately trained to practise medicine.
Amid such opposition, the MCI has not yet released the syllabus of the course. The contempt petition filed by public health activist Meenakshi Gautham had expressed concern that the MCI is "not serious" about the course.
The legal team led by activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing Gautham, complained that the delay in introducing the course is contributing to the denial of health care services to people living in rural areas.
An additional solicitor general representing the Union government said the health ministry is willing to support the introduction of the course, but is still waiting for the MCI to finalise the syllabus.
Proponents of the course believe graduates will be able to provide basic health care services in rural areas bereft of doctors. Figures from the health ministry suggest India's primary health centres and community health centres in rural areas have a 76 per cent shortfall of doctors.
Health officials say efforts by the ministry to coax medical graduates to work in rural areas by offering incentives, such as an additional 10 per cent marks in screening exams for entry into the postgraduate MD or MS degree for each year served in a rural area, have not drawn any response.
The next hearing is on October 12.