The health department is now giving doctors selected through the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) the luxury of choosing their area of service in rural areas. This, the department believes, will solve the problem of doctors not taking up assignment in these areas.
There are a large number of vacancies in the rural health sector. To ensure that doctors selected through MPSC take up rural posting, the health department is also counselling them before appointing them.
It is an open secret that most doctors, who pursue education in state/civic-run medical colleges in the state, do not want to work in the rural sector though it's mandatory. "This time we have succeeded in filling up 1,800 posts of doctors lying vacant mostly across rural areas. Earlier, doctor candidates selected by the MPSC and posted in rural areas were unwilling to join because they didn't like the location they were posted in. And this resulted in many posts lying vacant," said Dr Satish Pawar, director, Directorate of Health Services.
"This time around, we called all selected candidates to our office at CST, counselled them, and according to merit, allowed them to opt for the rural area of their choice. And this resulted in many of them taking up the job happily, said Dr Pawar.
While joining medical courses like MBBS/PG/Diploma in state and civic-run medical colleges, students are required to sign a bond saying they will serve in rural area for a year after completing the course or pay a fine. MBBS students will have to pay Rs 20 lakh as fine, and for PG/Diploma students, the fine is much higher at Rs 50 lakh. However, students are still reluctant to take up rural posting.
Health activists, social workers and public representatives have constantly been harping on filling up the post of doctor in rural areas. And the health department keeps on advertising for doctors in rural areas, but to no avail. So, doctors are selected through the MPSC.
Young doctors are averse to taking up job in places like Gadchiroli, Amravati, Nandurbar and the Konkan region. The trend is now slowly changing though.
"I think the health department's decision to allow doctors to choose their rural posting is good. It will help in filling up vacant posts," said Dr Anil Pachnekar, ex-president, Indian Medical Association.