Expressing concern over the quality of medical education, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said a "credible regulatory" mechanism should be put in place and a "serious look" given at the curriculum.
"There is a perception of deteriorating quality. We cannot allow this situation to continue. We must put in place a credible regulatory and institutional mechanism to help develop standards in our medical education," he said in his address at the third convocation in Jawaharlal Institute of Post graduate Medical Education and Research in Puducherry.
He said a serious look at the curriculum for medical education needs to be taken so that doctors are trained to look at health in a holistic manner that goes beyond a narrow clinical and technology-driven approach.
Observing that the country faces "serious challenges" in assuring the health and well-being of people, he said, health indicators continue to be poor and high mortality rates of infants and pregnant women have been a cause of serious concern.
Despite decades of implementing health and family welfare programmes, the country was still faced with a situation where two thirds of health expenditure was borne by people from out of their pockets, with a large proportion of this expenditure being on purchase of drugs, he said.
"Our government has decided to continue the National Rural Health Mission for the next five years. We are now proposing a new National Urban Health Mission in order to focus on the health challenges in our towns and cities," he said in the presence of union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and others.
Singh said shortage of doctors, nurses and public health professionals was emerging as one of the most important impediments to providing universal health coverage and this was acute in rural areas, particularly in northern, central and eastern regions of the country.
Against a desirable rate of one doctor per 1,000 population and three nurses per doctor, the country has one doctor per 2,000 people and three nurses for every two doctors, he said.
"The Centre and the state governments, particularly state governments of the under-served regions, need to put their heads together, prepare strategies and implement urgent measures to remedy the situation," he said.
Noting that effective health care involved a multi-layered workforce working cohesively as a team rather than individuals acting in a disconnected manner, he said, medical education should accordingly be reconfigured to produce a technically competent, socially sensitive, ethically correct and ready to serve health professional, who can respond to the diverse demands of health needs.
"False hierarchies should be shunned. Mutual respect and a sense of shared responsibility should form the basis of effective team work," Singh said, adding that the Medical Council of India was in the process of revising the MBBS curriculum and incorporating training in Community Medicine at all levels.
Construction of six AIIMS-like institutions at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh was in full swing. The medical colleges were expected to be functional from 2012-13 academic session and the hospitals by 2013-14, he said.