The State government has decided to take action against fresh medical graduates from the five government medical colleges in the State who have failed to undergo a year's compulsory rural service in government health-care institutions.

The National Rural Health Mission, which is in charge of their postings, has issued notice to 493 doctors of the 2009 and the 2010 MBBS batches who do not report for duty.

In 2007, Kerala became the first State to introduce the mandatory rural service for fresh medical graduates, consideered an innovative measure that other States could adopt to tide over the problem of shortage of doctors in rural areas.

A Government Order issued in October 2008 says Rs.5 lakh will be collected as fine from those who do not complete the service and further action by the Medical Council of India can be recommended.

The NRHM had initially served notice on 29 doctors who had been posted to Wayanad but had been absenting themselves from work.

Though these doctors were given an extended deadline of July 8 to appear before the District Medical Officer, Wayanad, only five turned up.

Another 464 doctors has been set a July 20 deadline to appear before the respective district medical officers, failing which the government will initiate steps to recover the fine.

“Every year, 750 doctors are coming out of our medical colleges (government) and the CRS is seen as an excellent option to manage the shortage of doctors as well as help these freshers gain some experience in the field,” a senior NRHM official said. The counselling and posting system is transparent and is based on the final year marks of the MBBS course.

Those on top of the list get the district of their choice.

“There is heavy demand for districts such as Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam, and Thrissur. But our requirement for doctors is in the northern districts of Palakkad, Wayanad, Idukki, Kannur, and Kasaragod, for which there are no takers at all,” he said.