The amendments in May last year to the archaic Medical Council of India Act - which made establishing new medical colleges difficult - have borne fruit, as more than 5,000 new seats will be added this year, which may mean more doctors will be available in the public health sector in the future.
After realising the existing number of seats in medical colleges was not able to meet the growing demand of professionals in the fast-expanding public and private health sectors, the government allowed opening of medical colleges on land plots of smaller sizes besides increasing the intake of students from 150 to 250 students in medical colleges that are at least 10 years old.
The government also eased the norms for a hospital to be attached with a medical college.
The changes in the law resulted in creation of about 3,595 more seats in 2012. This year, the government expects 5,000 more seats will be added, most of these in 10-15 new medical colleges set up after the amendments.
The Planning Commission’s 12th five-year plan (2012-17) data shows 40% of posts for doctors in the public health sector are vacant. The shortage is more acute in rural areas. The government hopes the new medical graduates will fill up vacancies in government health institutions after their graduation.
“It is a fact that doctors from government hospitals are joining private sector and it becomes difficult to get a replacement,” health minister Gulam Nabi Azad told Hindustan Times.
He said the old law was not relevant today when land resources are scarce, especially in urban areas.
“The capital cost of opening a medical college fell by 25% after the amendments,” Azad said.
While easing the norms to increase more seats, the government also increased the retirement age of medical faculty to 70 years from 58. The government is also trying to have more specialists by allowing two post-graduate students for one professor. Earlier the norm was one PG student per professor.
The health minister said most of the medical colleges in the country were based in southern and western India. Therefore the government was making efforts to start medical colleges in eastern and northern parts of the country. To that effect, the government has already started working on five AIIMS-like institutes in various parts of the country.