Just saw this news piece on The Hindu:
Frankly, I am not sure whether I should be outraged or applaud the Dental Council of India.
On one hand this would mean more trained doctors for providing proper care to the rural Indian population, but on the other it would be morally repugnant to both the Dentists and the rural patients. It would mean that the DCI is, by default, admitting that their students are better off trained to practice as General Practitioners than as Dentists. It would also mean that the rural Indian people are not good enough to receive care from those MBBS doctors who were trained to be MBBS in the first place. The DCI, instead of working on value addition to the course and making it lucrative for the students, is catering to the “short cut” to Medicine route instead. While it is true that there are multiple subjects that are common to the MBBS and the BDS curricula, it does not mean that the BDS should be reduced to a stepping stone for getting a “proxy” MBBS degree. Many of the dentistry students would actually be happy to see this deal, because, let us face it, their first choice would have been to study Medicine in the first place. By catering to that undercurrent, the DCI is taking a short route to popularity, and in exchange, further undermining the value of the BDS course. In my opinion, this move basically would translate into the fact that the BDS is a stepping stone to becoming an MBBS doctor.
The flip side of the story is that the Ministry, the MCI and all other health associations have failed miserably when it has come to catering to the healthcare needs of the rural Indian people. While it is true that instead of taking the long-winded, planning-intensive, exchequer-draining process of developing infrastructure, these bodies have solely concentrated on coercing junior doctors to spend time in ramshackle rural rubble passed off as healthcare centres, doctors themselves have been loathe to take the initiative to balance the issue of equity of care. If the DCI can actually pull it off, and ensure that the transition course is planned well enough to provide oral-general physicians, it would not be an entirely bad thing.
However, the crux of the case remains that even then, the rural healthcare conundrum shall remain unsolved. The biggest and most damning logic against this move is the current picture. How many BDS doctors themselves are willing to go and work in a rural setting where they shall hardly have access to any operating or diagnostic instruments? Very few. What is the guarantee that once they have been given the license to practice as MBBS doctors, they shall go down and fulfil the dual roles that they have been groomed for? And if they do, should they not, then, receive the pay of two professionals rather than one, since they are providing services equivalent to two caregivers? What about the expensive set up needed for providing dental diagnostic and therapeutic care? Will our governments handle those expenses and set them up, or will they, by default, relapse into MBBS doctoring, eventually sliding right back into the urban set up for more lucrative offers?
The MCI seems to be quite resistant against this idea, and I doubt even if they relent, the IMA or other medical professional bodies will look on this too kindly. This is unlikely to pass on and become a reality. However, as far as out of the box ideas go, this one, this one does not even know where the box is!
This post does not intend to denigrate either the MBBS or BDS physicians. This is an idea that should spark debate, and more importantly, should open up channels of communication that lead to solutions for the rural healthcare crisis in India. Do feel free to leave your comments and opinion on this matter, and if you do, please be civil.