The Madhya Pradesh government's rush to open medical colleges to make up for an acute shortage of doctors may actually prove counter-productive and result in a drastic fall in education standards, experts have warned.
The BJP government led by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has obtained the go-ahead from the Union health ministry to open five medical colleges in Shahdol, Vidisha, Ratlam, Khandwa and Datia towns.
However, experts said the government could be creating a scenario akin to technical education wherein a glut in engineering colleges in the state has resulted in a large number of seats remaining vacant every year. According to the experts, at present the state does not have even enough faculty in the five existing medical colleges.
Official sources confirmed that against 203 sanctioned posts of professors in the state, as many as 87 posts are vacant while 140 posts of associate professors out of 358 are vacant. Seventy-two posts of assistant professor are also vacant.
"(The) state government should (first) improve the condition of existing medical colleges instead of establishing new medical colleges in the state. The existing medical colleges are not in a position to fulfill the norms of the Medical Council of India (MCI) due to lack of faculty and other facilities," said DK Verma, a former superintendent of the Gandhi Medical College hospital.
He was of the opinion that "if the condition of the existing medical colleges is improved, the MCI will automatically increase the seats in existing medical colleges."
Nirbhaya Shrivastava, former dean of Gandhi Medical College (GMC), said that though the initiative "is appreciable", the government has to improve working facilities in the medical colleges.
"Medical teachers may compromise with less pay but they must get proper exposure. They must be encouraged to attend international conferences to enhance their knowledge," Shrivastava added. Former medical officer Yogesh Baluapuri, on the other hand, stressed "good incentives to encourage young doctors towards (the) teaching profession."
GMC dean Bhanu Dubey, however, defended the move saying that since the government has taken the decision to start new medical colleges, it will definitely take steps to ensure sufficient staff.
According to sources, the directorate of medical education has submitted a proposal for recruiting retired medical teachers as professors in the new medical colleges. According to the proposal, these retired teachers will be appointed on a contractual basis.
However, the director of medical education (DME) SS Kushwaha said the state government was in the process of formulating policies to ensure sufficient faculty in the new colleges. Another worry, according to educationists, is the falling interest among students for biology, the base for taking up medical courses later.
"No doubt, in the past few years students in the biology stream have reduced in schools. Career options after choosing biology subject are limited as compared to other streams," said PS Kalra, principal of the Bhopal-based International Public School. He further said there were very limited seats in government medical colleges in the state and choosing private medical college is an expensive affair.
Counsellor in Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and former teacher at World Way International School Shikha Rastogi said there were more job opportunities in mathematics or commerce stream compared to biology.
According to several school principals HT spoke to, the perspective of parents and students is changing and they have started looking beyond MBBS in terms of career prospects.
Former superintendent of Hamidia Hospital DK Verma said that the government must take steps to attract students to the biology stream or risk an acute shortage of doctors in the future.
The government must think on reducing fees of medical courses in private medical colleges, he said, adding that medical education was long-term process and required lot of time as compared to other profession.