Court slaps contempt notice on MCI, health ministry

Medical Council of India failed to start rural health practitioner course

By Sonal Matharu
Published: Tuesday 28 February 2012

The Delhi High Court on Monday issued contempt notices to the health ministry and the Medical Council of India (MCI), the country’s apex body for medical education, for not starting rural health practitioner course and thus failing to comply with its order.

The bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi issued notices to P K Pradhan, secretary with the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and K K Talwar, chairperson of body of governors of MCI. The government has been asked to reply within four weeks.

In November 2010, the court had given MCI two months to finalise the curriculum and syllabus of the three-and-a-half-year primary healthcare practitioner course called Bachelor of Rural Health Care (BRHC). The court had given the ministry another two months to enforce it. As per the order, the course should have been introduced by March 2011. But the petitioner says nothing has moved forward since the last court order.

“MCI is not at all serious about implementing the course,” says Meenakshi Gautham, public health expert who filed the public interest petition in 2009, accusing government of neglecting healthcare in rural areas. “The term of MCI’s body of governors will expire soon. The new body will have new ways of working. MCI is just buying time so that the issue dies a natural death,” she says.

As per government data, there is only one doctor for 35,000 people in rural areas, whereas 2.5 trained health workers are recommended for 1,000 people. In her contempt petition, Gautham writes, “In the absence of trained primary health providers, this care at first contact is currently delivered by informally trained and unlicensed practitioners who form the backbone of rural primary healthcare. The message that we get from this situation is that villages need trained mid-level practitioners per 1,000-2,000 population. Even if all the public health centres in India were fully staffed with doctors, this primary healthcare need would still not be met with doctors alone.”


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