New Delhi: The Centre has asked 14 states to accelerate the utilization of central funds allocated for new medical colleges for the early commencement of undergraduate courses. Rajesh Bhushan, union health secretary, highlighted the slow progress of these projects while reviewing their progress with health secretaries of 14 States/UTs through video conference. In all, 157 new medical colleges have been sanctioned under the centrally sponsored scheme in three phases since 2014.The states/UTs that participated in the review meeting were Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, J&K, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Odisha and Punjab.“Union Health Secretary urged the states to expedite the physical completion of projects to enable commencement of UG courses by academic session 2023-24. It was pointed out that since the scheme will conclude on 31st March 2024, all projects need to be completed in time,” the health ministry said in a statement.“The sum of Rs. 7,500 crores have been allotted for the schemes of Human Resources for Health (HRH) and Medical Education (ME) for the financial year 2022-23. However, due to the slow pace of expenditure of the States/UTs and since there has been no requisition for release of funds from the states, further release of funds by the Centre to States cannot take place,” it said.States have also been asked to furnish utilization certificates urgently to enable the Centre to release balance funds. State administrations were advised to regularly review the progress of the projects.Bhushan emphasized the benefits of newer technologies that enable quick completion and also high levels of conservation of energy, as opposed to many of the conventional technologies being used in many of the projects. States were advised to explore and use locally relevant and green technology options, and steel composite structures for the projects which are yet to start.“It was also pointed out that some of the projects seem to be languishing as the construction companies lack requisite experience regarding building of hospitals and provision of associated specialized services. States were advised to ensure that the selected contractors have adequate expertise and experience, and the sub-contracting also follows these requirements,” stated the government.This centrally sponsored scheme is being implemented in three phases--58 medical colleges covering 13 aspirational districts in 2014, 24 medical colleges in 6 aspirational districts for phase-II in 2018 and for phase-III 75 medical colleges within 20 aspirational districts in 2019.