The Delhi High Court has pulled up the Medical Council of India (MCI) and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for what it termed a contempt of court by failing to act upon an undertaking to introduce B.Sc Community Health course and create medical healthcare workers to provide primary healthcare in rural areas with no doctors.
In 2010, the government-appointed task force on medical education, under the National Rural Health Mission, had recommended a new course “to remedy the chronic shortage of health care professionals in rural areas”.
This was to be done by introducing a course in ‘community healthcare’ that would allow graduates to practise basic primary healthcare in rural areas where qualified doctors were unavailable. The Health Ministry and the MCI had also given an undertaking to the Delhi High Court in 2010, stating that the course will be implemented within three months.
As no steps were taken, a contempt of court plea was filed in 2012 by advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking action against the MCI and Centre. On Wednesday, the bench of Justice Manmohan issued order and said the government had failed to provide a legal basis for graduates to practise independently.
The MCI counsel Vikas Singh said the course can “only produce health workers for rural areas” who would work under the supervision of qualified MBBS doctors. It added that the existing Indian Medical Council rules only allowed practice of medicine by persons who had completed their qualification under the MBBS programme.
The court, however, accepted the arguments given by Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, who had said restricting the community health course graduates to “preventative work” under a doctor appointed with the government would not address the problem.
The court has now directed the MCI and the Health ministry to take steps to amend the existing rules under the Indian Medical Council Act to allow the community health course to be implemented within six months, or face contempt of court action.