Government may ease medical college norms(HT File Photo)
In a move likely to dilute the norms for setting up medical colleges, the Union health ministry is set to notify a regulation giving institutions the licence to function with fewer students if they do not meet the eligibility criteria for clinical work and faculty strength.
Ministry officials privy to the matter said the new norms, expected to be notified within 10 days, propose to grant such medical colleges the approval to function with the condition that the number of students can be increased when the institution meets infrastructure requirements.
Under the Indian Medical Council (MCI) Act, 1956, licences to run a medical college or add seats are denied when institutions do not meet the minimal requirements for infrastructure, faculty and clinical work, among others.
Dr VK Paul, chairman, board of governors, MCI, confirmed the proposed change in norms. “We have modified the rules. It can be called ease of business, as we aren’t flouting norms but only asking colleges falling short at, say, one level to admit students in proportion to their standards. We are allowing them to function the same year, rather than asking them to come back again the next year,” he said.
Several private medical colleges are found to be deficient in clinical requirements, having an inadequate number of patients visiting the out-patient department (OPD) and not enough occupied beds in the associated hospital where students get mandatory hands-on skill training in treatment and care.
“While private colleges struggle to get adequate number of patients, government colleges get rejected mostly because of faculty shortfall. But around 90% of licences rejected are for private colleges because they apply hoping that by the time of inspection, they would have things in place,” said a health ministry official requesting anonymity.
“Last year, only 21 of 80 applications were approved as the others didn’t meet the required criteria of proportion of patients treated in the attached hospital to the number of students they wanted to admit,” said another senior health ministry official not authorised to speak to the media on condition of anonymity.
Once the new norms are notified, colleges with adequate infrastructure to run the first-year undergraduate course will get approval for one year. Approval for the remaining years will come once they have added the required infrastructure.
“What is the point of wasting resources? We have a shortage of colleges, so if a college is functional, we should give it a chance to improve while it’s running. The norms, however, will apply only if the college agrees to it,” said Dr Paul. Reacting to the proposal, Dr KK Talwar, former chairman of the board of governors, MCI, said, “It’s not a bad move as it makes efficient use of the existing system, but the evaluation process has to be thorough and transparent.”