In a move that should make setting up medical colleges easier, the apex medical regulator has proposed doing away with the requirement of such institutions having a full-fledged hospital that has been functional for a minimum of two years.
The universities, once the proposed amendment is adopted, can start medical colleges soon after setting up a hospital to be attached with it.
The National Medical Commission (NMC) has proposed this amendment in the Establishment of Medical College Regulations, 1999, and public opinion on it has been sought within the next 30 days.
The relief, however, has been proposed on the condition that the hospital and the medical college should be owned and managed by the same entity.
Also, the structure of the medical college should not have been used for any other purpose at the time of application and the organisation should have a multi-speciality hospital with at least 1,000 in-patient beds anywhere in the country, according to the draft proposal signed by NMC Secretary Sandhya Bhullar.
If amended, the new regulation on setting up of medical colleges is likely to be effective from the 2023 academic session.
As per government figures, for the 2022-23 academic session, there are 91,927 MBBS seats on offer in India’s medical 622 colleges which include 322 colleges run by the government and 300 managed privately.
The number of postgraduate seats in medicine (master of surgery/doctor of medicine) seats, however, is 46,118, which is just about half the number of MBBS seats.
Sources in the NMC and University Grants Commission said that the proposed move is likely to aid private institutions—many of which had been requesting the regulator to relax the norm on an attached hospital.
“We had received some suggestions from universities and passed it on to the NMC for consideration,” said an UGC official.
A senior official in the medical education division of the Union health ministry, meanwhile, said that as per internal discussions on medical seats in India, it would be prudent to put a brake on the number of MBBS seats once it reaches the 1 lakh mark.
“The doctor-patient ratio in India is now almost on the prescribed lines of the World Health Organisation (1:1000),” said the official. “So we do not want a glut of MBBS seats and our next focus is going to be speciality and super-speciality seats in medicine at least for a few years to come.”
Unequal distribution of colleges
Some industry leaders welcomed the new draft proposal and said it has the potential to improve access to quality medical education while also correcting the skew in the distribution of medical colleges across the country.
Government data suggests that while the majority of medical colleges are concentrated in Maharashtra and the southern states, some of the most populous states, such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, do not have sufficient numbers of colleges teaching medicine.
“For a long time, the Indian healthcare industry has been struggling with issues such as the limited availability of a skilled healthcare workforce,” said Gautam Khanna, CEO of the Mumbai-based PD Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, who is also a senior member of NATHEALTH, a group representing the private sector healthcare industry in the country.“Once implemented, the new amendment can play a significant role in building a quality healthcare workforce with the necessary skills and training, which in turn can further enhance access to quality care ensuring service to a larger population, and providing new opportunities for growth and learning,” he added.