West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday directed state Health Secretary Narayan Swaroop Nigam to explore the possibilities of introducing a three-year diploma course in medicine in the state that will run in a parallel manner with the existing MBBS degree course.
She directed Health Secretary to form a committee in this regard to evaluate the possibilities of introducing the diploma course on this count.
Her proposal has, however, evoked controversies with the opposition parties and a section of the medical fraternity described the decision as a risky proposition.
Addressing media persons, the Chief Minister said that although many hospitals are coming up in the state, there is acute shortage of doctors there. "So, we will have to examine whether a three-year diploma course in medicine can be started in line with the diploma in engineering. In that case, many students will also be able to study that course," she said.
She also said that since the existing MBBS course is of five- year duration, often the state government has to wait for a long time to get qualified doctors. "The number of hospitals and beds have increased manifold. If a parallel diploma course can be started, then those qualifying there can be utilised at the health centres. I think this will yield positive results," Banerjee said.
BJP's state spokesman Samik Bhattacharya said that this will remain a proposal from the Chief Minister and will never see the light of the day. "This is a dangerous proposition," he said.
Congress leader and Calcutta High Court counsel Kaustav Bagchi said that the Chief Minister's proposal for a diploma in medicine in lines of "civic volunteers" in police, if put into practice, will endanger the lives of several patients.
Even the medical fraternity has strongly opposed the idea. According to Calcutta doctor, Dr Arindam Biswas, this model, though to an extent exists in China, the same cannot be replicated in India.
"The Chief Minister has said that these doctors will be deputed at the health centres which are mainly in the rural areas. So, the question is whether the lives of the patients in the rural areas can be put at stake. During the previous Left Front regime too, there was a similar move. But it did not work out and the proposal was outright rejected. There is no reason to risk the lives of the patients for short-term gains," he said.
City-based maxillofacial surgeon Dr Srijon Mukherjee said that the learning and studies is a life-long process for a medical practitioner. "The main technical problem is that those completing a three-year diploma will not get the medical registration as the regular MBBS degree holders get. Without the medical registration, they will not be able to go for higher degrees which the MBSS qualified ones can. So, there is a major problem in implementing the system," he said.
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