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After coming under attack from the doctors' lobby, the newly approved course of BSc (community health) that aims to bridge the gap for health professionals in rural areas, is now being contested by pharmacists too.
The Indian Pharmacists Association (IPA) has written to the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) to intervene in the matter of approval of the course. It feels that with an upgradation course, pharmacists can take over the task of offering over the counter (OTC) drugs in rural area. In its letter to the PCI, the association said, "Launch of BSc (Community Health) is equally against the pharmacists, doctors and nurses. At the same time, with no experience, these BSc (community health) pass outs woll serve only as quacks."
Earlier this month, the Union Cabinet has given a go ahead to the Health Ministry to start a new three and a half year BSc community health programme that would create a new cadre of health professionals to improve the rural healthcare infrastructure in the country. The proposal was pending since a few years, as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health had opposed the introduction of an undergraduate course on community health. Hence the health ministry had sought the cabinet nod to start the course.
Students passing out of this course would basically serve as community health officers in rural areas who would assist in preventive medicine, and would also be able to prescribe OTC drugs to patients for common ailments.
While the government feels that this would help create a much-needed pool of healthcare providers in rural areas, the IPA feels that in rural areas pharmacists have been dispensing as well as prescribing medicines to patients. States like Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand have allowed pharmacists to prescrive medicine in absence or non-availability of doctors, it said. Secretary general of the IPA, Bhupendra Kumar felt that pharmacists should not have been ignored and a new course being launched altogether.
In its letter the IPA said, "It is our demand to PCI to take necessary steps in this regard. A pharmacist after an upgradation course of just six months will definitely work far better than the BSc (Community Health) pass out. This will not only save national revenue, but public will also receive quality service from experienced pharmacists who are already working in rural and far flung areas."