Cabinet nod sought for rural healthcare course

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has taken a definitive step towards introduction of the proposed undergraduate course in rural healthcare by deciding to approach the Union Cabinet for its consideration and approval.

An affidavit filed on May 27 by the Ministry in the Delhi High Court, as the respondent in the matter of a 2009 petition by public health specialist Meenakshi Gautham, stated that a Cabinet Note was prepared and that it was sent to the Prime Minister’s Office on May 24 for its comments before placing it before the Cabinet.

The proposed course, now called B.Sc (Community Health), is aimed at creating a new cadre of intermediate level heathcare workers who would fill the gap in the delivery of primary healthcare in rural areas, where medical professionals were unwilling to serve. The proposal is based on the resolution of the 9th Conference of the Central Council of Health and Family Welfare on November 13, 2007, for the introduction of a 3-year diploma course in Medicine and Public Health, as well as the recommendation of a 2007 Task Force on Medical Education Reforms for National Rural Health Mission for the introduction of the 3-year Rural Practitioner Course.

In her petition, Dr. Gautham sought directives from the court to the government for the introduction of an appropriate short-term course for training mid-level health workers for primary health care in rural areas and implementation of the recommendations cited above.

This proposal had been rejected by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health in its March 2013 report (the 65th Report). This despite the fact that a majority of the medical specialists who testified before the committee had favoured its introduction.

In its order of April 18, the court said the Standing Committee Report was examined by the Ministry and a decision was taken, with the approval of the Health Minister, to move a proposal for obtaining the approval of the Cabinet for the introduction of the course.

The court also noted that the National Board of Examinations (NBE), a government body, had in its special session of April 3 amended its Memorandum of Association to accredit B.Sc (CH) course and also to prescribe minimum standards and schemes for implementing the said course.

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