Hyderabad: Decks are being cleared to introduce a bridge course for dental doctors that will allow them to practice general medicine in the near future. Dubbed as mid-level health care providers, the Ministry of Health, Family Welfare is mooting the proposal to introduce a new cadre in the healthcare system that will be trained in primary health care and public health and will function above multi-purpose health workers and ASHA workers.
To firm-up the modalities of such a course, the Ministry and National Institute of Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has called for a meeting with stakeholders, including Dental Council of India (DCI) on Monday in New Delhi. According to senior doctors in Hyderabad who are familiar with the issue, the meeting will revolve around allowing dentists to practice family medicine through a three-year bridge course and also explore possibility of leveraging their services in primary health care.
It was last year that DCI had mooted the proposal of a three-year bridge course for Bachelor in Dental Surgery (BDS) students in India. Once the BDS students clear the bridge course, they would be able to practice medicine just like full-fledged MBBS doctors. The DCI, which had sent a detailed proposal to the Health Ministry for approval to start a bridge course, argued that the issue of shortage of doctors in the country will be addressed if BDS students are allowed to practice, especially in rural areas, just like MBBS doctors.
The proposal to allow dentists to practice general medicine and Monday’s meeting has not gone down well with organisations including Indian Medical Association (IMA) representing doctors. “The fact remains that State and Central governments do not have the will or capacity to absorb doctors. Every year, India produces 63,250 MBBS graduates from 500 medical colleges but there are only 23,729 post graduate medical seats. Unemployment among young medical graduates is a cause of concern because governments refuse to absorb them,” IMA maintained.
The doctors’ body termed concepts such as converting dentists, nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, physiotherapists and AYUSH practitioners into mid-level practitioners as half-baked. That being said, due to proliferation of private dental colleges in the country, there are roughly 40,000 dentists, a majority of whom do not have a proper thriving practice. Both the Telugu speaking States nearly have 23 dental colleges which produce 2,400 BDS students every year.