Guwahati: Assam, which has the highest maternal mortality rate (MMR) in the country at 390 per 1,000 live births, also faces a serious crunch of doctors. So the state is now rolling out rural health workers, upgrading skills and making it mandatory for medical students to practise in villages.Prateek Hajela, mission director of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), Assam, said the state has been adopting a host of initiatives to tackle the issue."Lack of doctors and trained specialists, even nurses, is a huge problem in Assam. I don`t think lack of infrastructure is that big a problem. I mean, we have first referral units (FRUs) which are non-functional because of dearth of manpower," Hajela told IANS.Admitting to the seriousness of the issue - of lack of manpower - in the face of an already critical problem of high MMR, Assam has thus been designing new courses and implementing new laws to retain its human resources and upgrade the skills of existing health workers."The Assam government`s own health university, the Srimanta Sankardeva University of Health Sciences, which was established in 2009, offers a three and a half year training programme, at the end of which, one can practise as a rural health practitioner," Hajela said."It is a diploma programme and one can enrol right after Class 12. These rural health practioners are posted in the sub centres and health facilities in the village level, and are capable of handling complicated deliveries, but not a C-section. That can only be conducted by a specialist," he added.
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