Mumbai: In an attempt to address the scarcity of doctors in the rural areas of Maharashtra, the State Government has decided to make bond service for MBBS doctors mandatory.
With this, the doctors in the state will no longer be allowed to get rid of their bond service duties for one year by paying an amount of Rs 10 lakh as penalty.
This new rule will be applicable for medical and dental colleges who will join MBBS/BDS courses from this academic year. Besides, students availing reservation benefits and fee concession in self-aided private institutes will also be liable to serve mandatory one-year bond service in the interior areas of Maharashtra, reports TOI.
Such a move by the State Government will ensure that after four-and-a-half years from now, around 3,600 fresh MBBS graduates will be available for rural service. Among these 2,800 doctors will come from the Government medical institutes and another 800 doctors will join the mandatory bond service from private medical institutes.
This decision by the State comes at a context when data reveals that around 60% candidates in Maharashtra skip bond service while only 20-30% of the bond defaulters comply with the norm of paying the penalty amount mentioned in the bond execited at the time of admission.
Maharashtra had introduced bond service back in the time of India-Pakistan war of 1971. At that time, Pune’s Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) had sought refuge to Maharashtra for doctors.
Recalling this, the former head of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER), Dr Pravin Shingare told TOI, “Not many stepped up to serve at the border. So the rural service was a national call and was introduced in the aftermath (1972). Maharashtra was the first state to implement it.”
Referring to the scarcity of doctors in the rural areas of Maharashtra during the Covid-19 pandemic, a DMER officer said, “Hence, the state took the decision to make the bond mandatory.”
Although the State has bond service rules for MBBS doctors belonging to Government institutes, the MBBS graduates can skip bond service if they can secure admission to a post-graduate programme within two attempts. In such a case, the doctors get permission for postponing their mandatory rural service bond and comply with the norms after completing their PG or Super-Specialty medical education.
This led to a situation where many of the doctors used to skip bond service. Medical Dialogues had last year reported that even after warning to take penal actions against students who would not join the one-year compulsory bond service, a minimal number of MBBS graduates i.e. less than 50% had applied for one year mandatory bond service.
Estimate shows that among 100 patients who visit primary healthcare centres, many of the patients first get referred to a cottage hospital and after that to a sub-district hospital and finally, the patients get referred to a civil hospital. Among these patients, around 20% patients need to come to a medical college hospital for treatment.
“Most primary healthcare centres don’t have departments like ENT, dermatology, surgery, ophthalmology. So, with no positions there, many candidates just escape the bond,” he added.
Meanwhile, welcoming the decision, a parent representative Sudha Shenoy told TOI, “For years, the state has tried to maintain a good balance between students’ careers and ensuring good healthcare in rural areas. This decision was long overdue.”
Another parent mentioned in this context, “This will benefit villages. The state has been timely in issuing the GR much before the NEET UG 2022 exams and before starting the counselling process.”