The government will allow the private sector to set up medical colleges in backward states, hilly areas and the northeast region, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Monday.
"We will allow the private sector to set up medical colleges in backward states, hilly areas and the northeastern region," Azad said here at a healthcare meet organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), an industry lobby.
The government will allow these colleges to use the facilities of the district hospitals, he said.
"We will give access to district hospitals in these areas to private sector where they have the medical colleges," he said, adding this will reduce the private sector's expenditure and, at the same time, help create medical specialists like doctors and paramedics.
"We face a huge problem in the area of specialists like doctors and paramedics and this initiative will help the country bridge the gap," Azad added.
According to a Planning Commission report, India faces a shortage of about 600,000 doctors, one million nurses, 200,000 dental surgeons and a large number of paramedical staff.
Azad also announced some changes in rules that will make it easy for the private sector to invest in medical colleges.
"Private healthcare providers from now on can go vertical instead of horizontal in starting medical colleges in big cities," Azad said.
"Earlier there was a requirement of 24 acres of land to set up a medical colleges in big cities like Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Very soon, we are allowing them to start medical colleges on just 10 acres of land," the minister said, noting this decision will solve the land problems which are "huge issues" in big cities.
Welcoming the announcement to involve the private sector, which is part of the health minister's programme for 100 days in office, Fortis Healthcare Managing Director Shivinder Mohan Singh said: "It is like music to the ears of private sector."