The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the government’s plan for the creation of a specialised cadre of health care workers for rural areas by instituting a three-year-course in State universities.

The Bachelor of Science (Community Health) course will create a cadre of Community Health Officers who will be posted at sub-centres, functioning under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, where they can provide basic health care.

The course will start from the next academic year.

Being planned for the past several years, the proposal had been opposed stiffly by doctors on the grounds that it will create two tiers of medical professionals, and by the Parliamentary Standing Committee which recommended mandatory posting of doctors in rural areas instead.

According to the proposal, persons belonging to rural areas will study a three-year course on basic anatomy, and diagnosis and treatment of basic ailments.

The emphasis on training will be on conducting normal deliveries, pre-and anti-natal care, handling diarrhoea, pneumonia, vaccination, providing tuberculosis treatment and treatment of fevers and skin infections.

A Parliamentary Standing Committee had earlier rejected the government’s proposal for a ‘Bachelor of Rural Health Care’ course — re-named now as Bachelor of Science (Community Health) — and recommended options like mandatory rural posting after an MBBS internship, increasing the number of nursing graduates and postgraduates who could be posted at the health sub-centre level, as well as sending AYUSH (Indian systems of medicine) professionals to health sub-centres.

When the proposal was first mooted, a course named Bachelor of Rural Medicine and Surgery was suggested.

Curriculum ready

The National Board of Examination (NBE) has already prepared the curriculum for the course which will be sent to the State Universities. The NBE was brought into the picture after the Medical Council of India recommended changes in the original course drafted by the Directorate General of Health Services, and refused to notify it because ‘it lacked competence since it was not a medical course.’

The Health Ministry believes that these professionals will eventually be absorbed by the State Health Departments and will subsequently be posted to higher levels of health care facilities.