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Back-to-school tonic for doctors
- Bengal lines up Bill to make medical practitioners re-register

Calcutta, Sept. 29: Acting on a prescription of the West Bengal Medical Council, the government is preparing to put in place a legislation that will require nearly 40,000 doctors to update their professional knowledge and appear before authorities to renew their registration every five years.

“Once implemented, the new system would do a world of good to the doctors in Bengal, especially those serving in the government health centres and hospitals in rural areas,” said C.R. Maity, director of medical education. “We are also contemplating special refresher courses for general practitioners, many of whom need to bring their professional knowledge up to date.”

Before being “re-registered” — the parlance used by the council in its proposal — the doctors will have to undergo refresher courses and training programmes to upgrade their medical knowhow.

The council believes only continuing education would equip the average doctor with the knowledge needed to function in specialised areas. There are about 38,000 doctors in Bengal, of whom about 10,000 are engaged in the state health and medical education services.

“Plainly speaking, we want our doctors to know what is the latest in their respective specialised areas. We have suggested that periodic renewal of their registration be made mandatory and they be asked to present certificates in support of their updated knowledge,” state medical council president Ashok Chowdhury said today, adding that a few states like Maharashtra have already introduced it.

Maity — who represents the government in the council — said the state is keen to introduce re-registration. “We want to rope in organisations like the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and the Association of Surgeons of India to organise training camps for doctors for an update of knowledge. When these bodies certify that the doctors have completed an agreed number of hours of the refresher course in five years, we will re-register them,” he added.

The health department has also decided to introduce a similar registration renewal clause for people trained in general nursing and midwifery. Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said refresher courses would be organised for them, too. “Nursing has also undergone changes and it is important for the 28,000 qualified nurses in Bengal to be up to date on the advancements in the fields of general nursing and midwifery,” he added.

Welcoming the move, the chief of the IMA’s state branch, Subir Ganguly, said medical science was changing every day and doctors should strive to keep abreast of the latest developments. “There should be at least 100 accredited hours of training and refresher programmes in a span of five years before a doctor is re-registered. Also, physicians over 60 years may be exempted from this exercise,” he said.

Emphasising the need for re-registration, an IMA official said: “We have seen a section of doctors prescribing an antibiotic that is outdated. These doctors should know the latest antibiotics that have come in and their indications, side-effects and contra-indications.”

The state medical council chief said a process was on to update information on doctors in the state. “There have been many changes in addresses and a number of physicians have died. Against a fee of Rs 100, we are issuing new registration certificates with photographs,” said Chowdhury.

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