The State Assembly on Thursday passed the West Bengal State Health Service (Amendment) Bill, 2013, that proposes to provide incentives to doctors who serve in “difficult and backward areas” of the State for “ensuring availability of qualified medical practitioners” in those parts.

The Bill seeks to address the “practical difficulties” of providing quality health care “to meet the needs of the poor and deprived sections” for which “continuous presence of qualified medical personnel including doctors to ensure such health care is deemed to be of utmost importance”.

In the course of the discussion on the Bill, the ruling party’s chief whip Sovandeb Chattopadhyay said there is a perception that doctors are unwilling to go to rural areas. In order to change this perception, incentives must be provided to them, he said.

“Doctors will get various kinds of incentives including financial benefits. They will be provided insurance cover and given certificates of merit. In addition, they will be given up to 30 per cent grace marks when they apply for their postgraduation,” Mr. Chattopadhyay said.

Minister of State for Health Chandrima Bhattacharjee said 73 per cent of the State’s population of nine crore depends on the Government’s infrastructure for health and education.

Emphasising the need for more doctors to address the challenge, Ms. Bhattacharjee said steps taken by the Government to increase the number of seats in medical colleges will bear fruit only four or five years from now. She said the number of seats had been increased from 1,355 to 1,900.

The Bill states that it will provide incentives to medical officers in the West Bengal Health Service, the West Bengal Public Health-cum-Administrative Service as well as teachers in the West Bengal Medical Education Service serving in difficult and backward areas.