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Rural health tops Azad’s 100-day plan
Docs may get double salary for serving in remote areas
Aditi Tandon
Tribune News Service

Organ transplant law to be changed

The government plans to amend the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, to make organ transplant less cumbersome for genuine cases and prevent commercialisation of transactions, besides networking transplant centres for better utilisation of harvested organs

New Delhi, July 2
Rural postings for doctors may no longer be made compulsory, but doctors and paramedics who agree to serve in remote areas could improve their salaries by about 100 per cent.

Keen to strengthen the primary health sector in hilly and tribal areas, the government plans to “heavily reward” specialists who give up urban postings in favour of remote, rural jobs.

Part of the Union Health Ministry’s 100-day agenda, the proposal of location-specific salaries is part of the larger aim to identify uncovered areas for the setting up of primary health centres (PHCs). The funding would flow from the National Rural Health Mission component.

“The only way to push specialists towards fringe areas is to reward them. We could offer double the salary to a city doctor who goes to a remote area,” Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad yesterday said. He was, however, silent on mass privatisation of the sector, which remains deregulated, and on his budget aspirations, despite India’s poor one to two per cent of the GDP public spending on health.

There is, however, talk of enhancing human resources in the acutely-deficient health sector, with the government planning to set up an overarching commission to regulate human resources in health and expediting the setting up of 8 AIIMS-like institutes and upgrading 18 state health institutes to increase postgraduate seats in the critical gynecology, pediatrics and anesthesia sectors.

It remains to be seen though how Azad would reconcile the agenda of this council with that of Kapil Sibal in the HRD Ministry, which has announced a similar body for education, with some control over the Medical Council of India. “We will sort it out among ourselves,” said Azad, when asked how two councils with one purposes would coexist.

The minister was also non-committal on his predecessor’s proposal to make rural posting of doctors compulsory. “We would deal with that when we formulate short and long term policy in 100 days to fill gaps in human resources in health. This policy is paramount. We can’t deal with the existing shortages simply by setting up more institutes,” Azad said.

On the legislative front, too, the ministry’s ambitious declaration of setting up a Central Drug Authority is confusing, considering the Drug Controller General is already regulating the drug market. Azad’s agenda proposes amendments to the Drugs and Cosmetics Act to establish an autonomous authority to oversee the drug sector and prevent the flow of spurious drugs, but is it not clear whether this authority would subsume the Drug Controller’s Office.

The only front where the minister made a bold commitment was corruption in health offices and quality of medical institutes. “I would use extraordinary powers to derecognise any institute should I learn that the said institute used corrupt means to meet any of its ends, be it increase in seats or grant. Let institutes be cautioned that there is no place for touts in our system,” he said. Future checking of medical institutes is also expected to be random and not organised.

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