Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Government Medical College in Every District of India

The TV Channel CNN-IBN ran, on April 3, ’13, an excellent programme on malpractices in some private medical colleges in India – such as charging exorbitant and illegal fees for admission. The program reported “capitation fees” as high as Rs 2 Crores ($400,000 or so) being demanded. Don’t worry when you undergo an operation! Your doctor may not know what exactly to cut or where, but he would have come from a family plush with funds!

Reputed panellists made valuable points. Mr Mohandas Pai said that the best remedy for this evil is to encourage the number of educational institutions in the medical field, thereby reducing the demand-supply gap in seats. In Dr Devi Shetty’s view, what is needed is one government medical college in every district of India. He pointed out that this would rectify the north-south gap in medical college seats. Dr Gulati came down hard on private medical colleges and asked why they could not be nationalized, just as private banks were nationalized under Indira Gandhi.

I have a few suggestions. Running (government) medical colleges offering the MBBS degree is the state governments’ job. This means quick action can be taken by a few states that wish to progress fast. They could seek international loans to pay for installing and running the proposed new colleges, and run them as not-for-profit institutions, but as cost-recovering institutions attached to a major government hospital in the district. Such institutions should recover their running costs and pay back their loans, say over 15 years. Students should use educational loans from banks, if required, to pay for the cost of education. After all, they will need to pay that back to the banks only after they start earning their incomes as doctors. The central government already gives an income tax benefit for payment of interest on educational loans.

What is the challenge in doing all this? Do we, as a nation, have the maturity to run such institutions well? Will administrators, who come and go every few years, care about the slow process of growing an institution and building up its reputation? Let the leaders at the state level show their abilities to manage a developmental activity like creating a medical-college-in-every-district.
A big “thank you” to CNN-IBN before I end this post! Keep up the good fight! The media have become some of the leading conscience-keepers of the nation over the last ten years. We are grateful to your staff members who undertake scam-busting operations like this at considerable risk to themselves. We congratulate and thank your leaders who withstand pressures from powerful vested interests!

Srinivasan Ramani

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