OF THE 89 new medical colleges that were approved in 2011-2018, 39 failed to clear inspection by the Medical Council of India (MCI), according to data available with the NITI Aayog. In most cases, the functioning of the hospital was found to be “deficient”. So the MCI Board of Governors (BoG) is now considering the option of restricting new medical colleges to institutions which have a functional hospital for at least three years.
According to the MCI’s rules, a medical college with 100 seats needs to have a functional teaching hospital with at least 300 beds, with 60% occupancy at the time of submission of application to the MCI. The 60% bed occupancy has to be maintained at the time of the annual renewal the next year. The bed strength has to increase to 500, with minimum 75% occupancy, at the time of the second renewal.
While some of the medical colleges which failed inspection were found to have a shortage of faculty, most of them were found deficient on the above criteria.
The BoG, the highest decision making body of the MCI, has NITI Aayog member Dr V K Paul, Secretary, Health Research, Dr Balram Bharagava, AIIMS Director Dr Randeep Guleria, AIIMS Professor Dr Nikhil Tandon, Dr Jagat Ram of PGI, Chandigarh, DGHS Dr S Venkatesh and NIMHANS Director Dr B N Gangadhar as members.
“It is clear from the fate of the new medical colleges that the real problem is in the running of the hospital. That is where most of them slip up, because, for a medical college, running the hospital is never a priority, partly because all the investment is done on the teaching side of the business. That is why we are looking at upturning the rules and allowing new medical colleges only where a hospital has been running for three years for more. This would, in essence, mean that only existing hospitals and chains would be eligible to start new MBBS programmes, especially in the private sector,” said a source.
BoG sources said there are concerns that this could shrink the MBBS seats, at a time when the government is pushing for more MBBS seats to improve the doctor:patient ratio, which is 1:1655 as compared to the WHO norm of 1:1000. Currently, there are about 70,000 MBBS seats in the country.
The government has been trying to get existing hospital chains to open medical colleges. That is why some years ago, a clause was removed in the rules for establishment of medical colleges that disallowed “commercialisation”. However, with the exception of the Apollo chain, nobody has come forward.
“The ultimate solution may be that the government needs to invest more in medical colleges. We cannot compromise on quality, and it is clear from the data of the last few years that the current model of pushing more seats by easing norms is not working in the long run,” said an official.