Accepting in principle that a medical college can be a profit-making enterprise, the Health Ministry has started the process to remove a clause in eligibility rules which states that permission to companies to set up medical colleges would be withdrawn if there is “commercialisation”.
Four years after an amendment was made to the rules to establish medical colleges, paving the way for companies to get involved through PPP mode, not a single company — mainly hospital chains across the country, some of them with thousands of beds — has shown interest, fearing that permission would be withdrawn if its accounts show any profit.
So, while a lot of these chains run recognised super-speciality courses, they do not have the recognition of a medical college. The Health Ministry has now written to the Medical Council of India to substitute Sub Clause (6) of the eligibility criteria to remove the reference to “commercialisation”.
As per a 2012 amendment to the Establishment of Medical College Regulations 1999, a medical college can be set up by a state government, a university, an autonomous body promoted by the Central and state government for the purpose of medical education, a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, a public religious or charitable trust registered under the Trust Act, 1882 or the Wakf Act, 1954 or by a company registered under the Company Act. However, it adds that “permission shall be withdrawn if the colleges resort to commercialisation”.
“This is essentially a contradiction because a company, by definition, is a profit-making venture. So, by putting this clause, we can only hinder transparency, which may be why no company ever came forward in these four years. We have, therefore, asked MCI to substitute the clause with simply ‘companies registered under Company Act 2013’ and also suggested that there should be a provision in the regulations permitting any society or trust that may have set up a medical college to convert itself to a company,” said a Health Ministry official.
He added that talks are on between a big hospital chain from south India and the Andhra government to set up a medical college. The move to amend the regulations, sources said, is based on an acceptance of the fact that the private sector would not come in for philanthropic reasons alone.
The move is part of the government’s initiative to increase the number of medical colleges in India through PPP to tide over shortage of doctors. Currently, there are 222 medical colleges in the private sector and about 200 in the government sector.