The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has set up a task force to frame the curriculum for the Bachelor of Rural Health Care course, which is expected to be rolled out in a few months. A new cadre of health care workers for rural India is expected to help in overcoming the huge shortage of human resource in the sector.

The government is also seriously contemplating encouraging the Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and the Multi Purpose Male Workers (MPW) to get enrolled for this course if they fulfil the basic eligibility criteria of passing Class XII from a government-recognised school.

There are now more than 7,00,000 ASHAs in villages and a large number of these have completed four rounds of basic community health worker training while the Mission Steering Group of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) has already approved appointment of 53,305 Multi Purpose Male Workers. They will be appointed at the sub-centres in 235 backward districts for three years by the Centre and subsequently the States will have to find resources for these appointments. Both these categories of health care workers can be absorbed as Rural Medical Assistants after they successfully complete the three-and-a-half-year Bachelor of Rural Health Care course.

Specific responsibility

The four sub-groups under the task force comprising eminent medical educationists and specialists have been given a specific area of responsibility. The sub-groups will enumerate common ailments, level of skills required for treating these ailments, and design curriculum to impart competencies suited to the rural areas, internship, and training at the sub-centre level. It will also indicate faculty requirement, eligibility and development and come up with duration of modules and methods of examination. Importantly, it will try to integrate the components of Indian Systems of Medicine with the proposed course.

The Bachelor of Rural Health Care course is proposed to be conducted by a medical school attached to the district hospital and will be affiliated to an examining university for conferring the degree. The medical practitioners will be registered with the State Medical Council concerned.

Internship

The three-year degree course with six months of rotational internship will make the students Rural Medical Assistants who will be employed at the sub-centres. The admission will be district-based as far as possible and the degree holders will be allowed to handle common ailments. There is also a proposal to re-employ retired medical college teachers until the age of 70 in addition to allowing Medical Officers with MBBS degree or PG degree with certain stipulated experience to teach in these medical schools.

The Ministry intends to go in for further consultations with all stakeholders, mainly the State governments, before arriving at a final decision as the States would be the main implementing agencies for providing infrastructure and pooling the adequate human resources to conduct the course.

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