INADEQUATE HOSPITAL infrastructure, poor drug supply and lack of equipment, poor accommodation and disparity in remuneration in the rural areas holds back the medical students in Haryana, Himachal Pradesh (HP) and Punjab from opting for rural jobs. This was revealed in a research carried out by the Department of community medicine and School of Public Health of PGIMER, Chandigarh.
The study was carried out to examine the shortage of doctors, especially in rural areas, which in turn affected the effective delivery of health care services.
This study was conducted to determine the discouraging and encouraging factors affecting medical students’ interests towards working in rural areas and support new policies able to address this issue.
Dr Sonu Goel, Additional Professor who conducted the study with his team of doctors stated that three states of North India- Punjab, Haryana and HP were included to study their level of interest in postings in rural areas.
A total of 636 medical students (including interns) of six government medical colleges of the three states were studied. Of the 636 medical students, 297 were males, and 339 were females. The average age for males was 22.4 years and for females 22.10 years . 97.8 per cent of students were unmarried. 81% of students had completed their premedical studies in urban areas, and 40.7% belonged to rural family backgrounds. Final year students of Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) and interns were selected as they have to decide whether to take a posting in rural or urban area.
Ninety students between the age group of 20-27 years participated in the study with males outnumbering females. Of that nearly one-third of the study subjects were from the state of Himachal Pradesh, and quite similar numbers belonged to Punjab and Haryana.
Students cited unavailability of cutting-edge technologies, inadequate human resource support, fewer opportunities to travel abroad and fewer research options as barriers to work in rural areas. Moreover, poor accommodation facilities along with lack of basic amenities (like inadequate hospital infrastructure, poor drug supply and lack of equipment) demotivate them to work in rural settings.
The study highlighted the fear of probable isolation and being left out in the remote and rural settings among the students. They have a general feeling that the salary package offered in rural areas does not fairly compensate for the benefits of working in urban areas. “They wished that the salary package for doctors working in a rural area should be significantly more than the doctors serving in urban settings,” the research specified.
However, some students said they would take up rural postings to give back to society. Although, the students said that both factors would determine their willingness, however, the study found that more students were disinclined to work in rural areas.