New Delhi: The restructuring the Medical Council of India (MCI) is one of the reforms needed to address the acute shortage of doctors in India, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Tuesday.

“We need a new regulatory system to enhance availability of doctors and medical professionals in our society. We have to overcome regulatory bottlenecks and interest groups that have prevented the growth of quality medical education in our country. This gives us far fewer medical graduates and postgraduates every year than our people need," Kovind told the 45th convocation of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

According to the ministry of health and family welfare, a total 1.02 million allopathic doctors were registered with the MCI or with state medical councils as of 31 March 2017. Going by these figures, India barely has seven allopathic doctors per 10,000 population.

Indian medical colleges, whether run by the government or private institutions, have only about 67,000 undergraduate seats and 31,000 postgraduate seats. “In a country of 1.3 billion people this is highly inadequate," Kovind said.

Till now, MCI has been country’s sole medical regulatory body.

“It’s a great challenge to produce high quality healthcare providers at all levels. To address these challenges, we have undertaken reforms such as setting up of more medical and nursing schools, introduction of National Eligibility-cum Entrance Test (Neet) to get rid of multiple entrance exams and ensure greater transparency and better standard, reforms in MCI and National Board of Examinations (DNB) regulations have helped in taking the total number of postgraduate (PG) and DNB seats to more than 37,000," said J.P. Nadda, Union minister of health and family welfare at the same event in New Delhi.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has been up in arms against a proposed bill that seeks to replace the MCI with a National Medical Commission (NMC). The apex medical body earlier this month called a one-day strike in hospitals across the country, shutting down outpatient services claiming the bill sas “anti-poor, anti-people, non-representative, undemocratic and anti-federal". However, Nadda called it “beneficial" to the medical profession while addressing the Parliament in earlier this month. The bill was later referred to a parliamentary standing committee following nationwide protests.

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