NEW DELHI: Government’s proposal of allowing dentists to practice modern medicine through a bridge course in order to tackle the shortfall of doctors in rural areas is facing stern opposition from the Indian Medical Association (IMA). The proposal has already received a nod from Prime Minister Office (PMO) on 9 April 2019. According to officials in the ministry of health and family welfare, the notion is to scale up the medical education in India.

IMA has alleged that idea of bridge courses and mid-level practitioners to fill the gap doctors in rural areas is a myth. “There is no shortage of doctors in the country. 63,250 MBBS graduates come out of 494 medical colleges of India. India has only 23,729 post graduate seats. The fact remains that the Government does not have the capacity to absorb rest of them," said Santanu Sen, National President, IMA. “Every year the unemployment amongst young medical graduates is a cause for great concern. The frustration of these youngsters with a decent undergraduate degree in medicine has to be addressed," he said.

When the government proposed to let AYUSH practitioners practise modern medicine, under the National Medical Commission Bill 2017 a similar opposition from IMA and other doctors came up. “The government's attempts to provide half baked medical care to the citizens through mid-level practitioners are dangerous. The Government should give permanent postings to MBBS Graduates in the 1,50,000 wellness centres. Adhoc postings are unacceptable. This is nothing but cruel exploitation of these hapless young graduates," said R.V. Asokan, Secretary General IMA.

“Every allied profession to medicine has a unique identity and serves a specific purpose. Dentists, Nurses, Optometrists and Pharmacists have a role and should contribute their services in the respective fields. To baptize them as mid-level medical practitioners through a six months bridge course is being indifferent to the needs of patient safety and patient care," he said.

The IMA has also raised questions that why the large number of MBBS graduates who are not absorbed into Post Graduate courses every year are not given employment by the Government. “Non creation of new posts, new Public Health Centres (PHCs) and Community Health Centres(CHCs) due to budget constraints is the sole reason. Stagnating 1.1% of GDP as expenditure on Health by successive Governments is the sole reason for the miserable status of Health Care delivery in the country," said Asokan.

DCI had proposed a post B.D.S Medical bridge course with duration of 3 years. As far as the eligibility criteria, B.D.S graduates recognised by Dental Council of India will only be eligible for bridge course. The admission will be given either through common entrance or through cumulative B.D.S marks or merit can be decided considering 50% of cumulative BDS marks and 50% of common entrance. According to DCI, the syllabus curriculum, scheme of examination, method of evaluation, awarding degree and their registration all these criteria will be same as recommended for M.B.B.S course by MCI. The ministry of health and family welfare and NITI Aayog are working to implement the proposal after getting nod from PMO.

According to union health ministry, there is less than one doctor for every 1000 population in India which does not meet the World Health organisation (WHO) standards. As per WHO, the doctor population ratio should be 1:1000. The data also shows that more than 65% of health professionals are available in urban part of India for 31% of population, whereas in rural areas 33% of health professionals are available for 70% of population.

As on today on yearly basis more than 30,000 dentists pass out of which 3000-4000 go for post graduate education in country, whereas some go abroad or practice as dentist or some opt for different profession.