The general reluctance shown by doctors to serve in rural areas has all but disappeared. In Maharashtra,so many medical students have agreed that there are now more willing doctors than the state can accommodate. Maharashtra has 1,500 posts of medical officer vacant; for these there are 3,000 applications,says Dr G S Chinde,director of health services.
It is not that the new crop of students has suddenly become more sensitive to the requirement of rural service. Its just that should they want to skip a years stint in villages,the bond money has become unaffordable.
Maharashtras 14 medical colleges yield 2,000 MBBS graduates every year,of whom around 700 enrol in a postgraduate course. After MBBS,a medical graduate is required to sign a bond with the government to serve in rural areas for a year. If they opt to skip this,they need to pay Rs 10 lakh. The payment was Rs 1 lakh initially,raised to Rs 5 lakh in 2004 and doubled in 2010.
From students who signed a bond of Rs 5 lakh,the Directorate of Medical Education and Research has collected barely Rs 50 lakh,compared to Rs 3 crore collected in three years from students who had signed for Rs 1 lakh.
Dr Pravin Shingare,state director of medical education and research,said since the hike to Rs 10 lakh,over 4,000 doctors have enrolled for rural service.
The bond is higher for postgraduate and super-specialty doctors,Rs 50 lakh and Rs 2 crore. Now,the authorities are wondering where to place these highly qualified doctors.
We are scrutinising the applications so that the doctors specialisation can be suitably utilised, an official said. The delay in doing this has led to several students writing to the DMER that they have not got any response to their applications. Shingare said he has got more than 30 such letters and will write to the health department to start filling the vacancies. The DMER has in fact listed 400 vacancies at Employees State Insurance Corporation hospitals.
The health department is also trying to fill vacancies under NRHM,which needs 400 school-level health medical officers.