The new rural doctor: qualified quack or appropriate healthcare provider?
The recent decision of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to initiate the training of an exclusive cadre for the healthcare needs of rural areas has provoked intense debate. Groups as well as individual experts have raised several points while arguing on either side of the debate. This short comment discusses here two such debates, one on the “level of skills” with which the new cadre would put its profession into practice and the other about the need for basic practitioners. There have been several questions, some with ethical overtones (why should there be substandard care for the rural population?) and some on practical matters (will the cadre be able to handle the population’s healthcare needs?). These are based on the notion that what we have today (the current medical graduation programme) is the gold standard, and what we are considering as a new cadre is nothing but a compromise and a short-term solution to the problem of non-availability of doctors. This position can be challenged because the issue of health human resources in rural areas is not limited to their non-availability. Another important question relates to their appropriateness to work in the rural context, especially for primary level care.
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