President Pratibha Patil on Monday urged young doctors to devote some years of their professional life to working in the country’s rural areas by responding positively to the government’s call to take up rural postings.

“By serving in rural areas not only would you be doing good work for the nation but the stint will also be a valuable addition to your professional experience. It will also be an opportunity to get to know your country better,” she said at the 37th Annual Convocation of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, where 381 students were awarded degrees.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the objective with which AIIMS was set up was getting diluted because of the large number of patients, and research and innovation were taking a backseat.

The government, he said, was planning to set up eight AIIMS-like institutions and upgrade 19 government medical colleges, besides strengthening the health infrastructure at the rural, district and State levels, which would in the long run reduce pressure on the Institute.

“Most clearances for the proposed AIIMS-like institutions have been obtained, and civil tenders are being issued. Incentive up to Rs.10 crore would be given for early completion of work,” the Minister announced.

“In consultation with the Medical Council of India, land requirement for medical colleges is being rationalised and we are taking several measures for betterment of under-graduate and post-graduate education and to encourage doctors to go to rural and difficult areas. The government is also trying its best to increase the availability of teachers and provide more auxiliary nurse midwife and general nurse midwife schools that will train an additional 22,000 nurses annually,” he said.

AIIMS Director R. C. Deka said, “We have a tremendous social responsibility: our brand cannot and should not be used differently. Therefore, we have to evolve a strategy to maintain the quality of the brand. We are aware that the level of patient satisfaction has been declining over the past few years, especially in the Outpatients Department. However, despite the growing numbers, we are trying to find a solution and change the situation. A separate OPD block is being planned to de-congest the hospital.”