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Docs duck rural-service bait

New Delhi, May 25: Medical graduates have so far largely spurned the government’s novel offer of extra marks in the national postgraduate entrance test in return for rural service.

“This shows the total apathy of the (medical) fraternity to rural areas,” Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said today, indicating the offer had had few takers.

“I’m very sorry to see the attitude of our (medical) students. It is said.”

The health ministry had announced the incentive in September 2009. Under the plan, junior doctors would work in rural areas for one to three years after doing their MBBS, and in return would receive 10 to 30 per cent extra marks in the entrance examinations for MD or MS degrees.

The unique offer had raised hopes of luring doctors to rural areas, after years of debate on how to do this and after abandoning an earlier proposal to make rural service mandatory for all MBBS graduates.

However, Azad indicated that the doctors were still keeping away from rural service. “I thought there would be a rush,” he said.

Health ministry sources said they could not immediately provide details of how many MBBS graduates had taken up the offer of rural service after the incentive was announced.

Over the past two years, the government has added 7,470 seats in postgraduate medicine.

New AIIMS by 2012

The new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences in six cities, proposed eight years ago, will be ready to treat patients by October 2012, Azad said.

He added that construction of the medical colleges and hospitals for the AIIMS in Bhubaneswar, Patna, Raipur, Bhopal, Jodhpur and Hrishikesh was under way, sped up by a carrot-and-stick package.

Companies that finish construction for a new AIIMS several months ahead of schedule will receive a special award of Rs 15 crore, Azad told a news conference. Delays will bring penalties, and companies will be “blacklisted” for delays beyond six months.

Azad said his ministry planned to provide cancer diagnosis, “chemotherapy of up to Rs 1,00,000 for 100 patients”, and home-based palliative care in 100 district hospitals in the country. “Eventually, we’d like to roll this across the country.”

A senior health official told The Telegraph the health ministry would need to find a source of money and develop its human resources and infrastructure before any such expansion of cancer services.

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