The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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More room for non-doctors
- Diploma-holders to become additional medical officers

Calcutta, July 29: After drawing up a plan to induct homeopaths and ayurveds in primary health centres, the government is mulling roping in community health service personnel as additional medical officers.

The post is being created to accommodate 97 community health service personnel who completed a “condensed medical course”, a far cry from MBBS.

The candidates were part of a batch of 300 working in the districts after securing a three-year diploma in Community Medical Service (DCMS) in the 1980s.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee said the 97 “healthcare professionals” will soon be engaged in various hospitals. “We think these additional medical officers will help the doctors handle the mounting pressure in hospitals,” he added.

The concept was a brainchild of Pramode Dasgupta, the first Left Front chairman who also authored the no-English policy.

The condensed course, the government had thought, would help improve healthcare in rural Bengal. The plan boomeranged after representative bodies of doctors and medical professionals buried political differences to protest against the course and finally managed to convince the government to drop it altogether.

But, by then 300 people had bagged the diplomas and started working as community health service officers in district hospitals. But the personnel meant to assist doctors in preventive healthcare soon started demanding rights similar to those enjoyed by MBBS doctors, like issuing birth and death certificates and treating patients on their own.

Denied the recognition they thought was due, the community health officers moved court. The Supreme Court allowed the petitioners the right to issue birth and death certificates but barred them from private practice.

They could only get involved in preventive healthcare in district hospitals. The state medical council also awarded a provisional registration number following the Supreme Court order.

Despite repeated appeals and lobbying, they were not allowed to work in hospitals or practice in private outside Bengal. But the lobbying did not stop there.

Three years ago, the government made the community health officers go through another “condensed medical course” so that they could learn “advanced medical science” covering all the aspects taught in the MBBS course, excluding surgery.

The first batch of 97 that completed the condensed medical course this June has been permitted to work in government hospitals anywhere in the state.

The designation of additional medical officer comes with more responsibility and a pay-scale equivalent to a West Bengal Health Services doctor’s.

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