New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Thursday cleared a health ministry proposal to add 10,000 seats in state and central government medical colleges in a move aimed at reducing the nation’s disease burden.
The decision comes a week after CCEA cleared a proposal to set up 58 government medical colleges with 100 seats each.
Currently, there are around 50,000 Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) seats across the country. The addition of 15,800 new places is aimed at improving the doctor-patient ratio in the country from 1:2000 to 1:1000.
“There is a huge medical and doctor deficit in the country and any decision to increase the capacity and number is a good move. But what is also important is that the government needs to think and plan how to achieve it in the absence of enough medical teachers,” said Kavita Narayan, head of hospital services at the Public Health Foundation of India, a public-private initiative.
She said authorities need to think and see if they can use public-private partnerships for training and teaching, harness digital technology and increase the teacher-student ratio.
Narayan said that instead of increasing seats equitably among dozens of streams, authorities should focus on creating a basic cadre of doctors and a bigger pool in gynaecology, paediatrics, family medicine, orthopaedics, psychiatry and emergency medicine. “These are the fields which will benefit the maximum people. For example, gynaecologists and paediatricians can help reduce maternal and infant mortality. Super specializations can come later.”
Most of these seats will be added to existing medical colleges, said Keshav Desiraju, Union health secretary.
“This is a welcome and substantial addition. Most of these seats will be added to existing medical colleges. For example, a 100-seat college will take 50 extra students and a 150-seat college will now have 200 MBBS seats and so on.
“We are looking at colleges that already have all the infrastructure required to accommodate additional seats. Of course, in some colleges additional staff would be required to match MCI (Medical Council of India) standards and the increase in budget should enable existing medical colleges to do so,” he added.
The health ministry had sought a financial allocation of Rs.10,000 crore for adding around 10,000 more MBBS seats.
The bigger task at hand for the health ministry, however, is to set up the 58 new medical colleges. These new colleges will be housed in district hospitals with 200 beds or more, which will be converted into teaching institutions.
“Setting up new medical colleges means it will have to be attached to a hospital, where students can learn. For this, we are looking to upgrade the district hospitals and providing infrastructure like classrooms, faculty and hostels will require more investment in the current plan period,” said Desiraju.
India currently has 381 medical colleges with 49,918 MBBS seats registered with MCI. The central assistance share under the proposal will be to the tune of Rs.8,457.40 crore and the State/Union Territories share will be Rs.2,513.70 crore. “While the funding pattern of states will be 75:25 under the scheme, it will be 90:10 by central and state governments respectively for Northeastern states and special category states,” said Manish Tiwari, information and broadcasting minister, at a press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
The increase in the number of MBBS seats is also aimed at reducing the nation’s disease burden and to take more medical services to unserved areas of the country, especially in rural areas.
The new medical colleges have been approved with the caveat that the distance between the district or referral hospital and the new medical college to be set up will be within 10km of each other and on two pieces of land. The total cost of establishment of one medical college is about Rs.189 crore.
Prashant Nanda contributed to this story.