Medical students are in for a bonanza with the government planning to double availability of undergraduate and postgraduate seats to meet a target of 80,000 MBBS and 45,000 PG seats in India by 2021.
The objective is also to improve the availability of doctors by ensuring a doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000 as against the current 1:2000 ratio, Health Ministry officials said.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is targeting additional 38,431 seats in the MBBS and 22,806 seats in the PG streams by 2021, representing a whopping rise of 92.45 per cent and 102.75 per cent respectively over the current availability.
The target is 80,000 MBBS seats and 45,000 PG seats by 2021, the officials said at the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Health chaired by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in New Delhi today. The meeting was called to discuss the scenario of medical infrastructure in the country.
At present, there are 41,569 MBBS seats in the 335 medical colleges across India and 22,194 PG seats. However, most of these seats and medical colleges are concentrated in the southern and western states with the central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh barely getting any share in medical infrastructure.
Ministry's latest data shows that 66 per cent of the 335 medical colleges and 69 per cent of the current MBBS seats are located at present in the Southern and Western states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa.
Central India has only 5 per cent share each in medical colleges and undergraduate medical seats while eastern India, comprising Bihar and West Bengal, which feature among the five most populous states, have 10 per cent of India's medical colleges and just 9 per cent MBBS seats.
North India with the most populated state Uttar Pradesh is no better with only 17 per cent medical colleges and 16 per cent of MBBS seats available. The northeast has 3 per cent share each in medical colleges and MBBS seats, reflecting the skewed availability of resources.
Additional medical seats are being targeted to correct this imbalance to some extent and improve the availability of doctors for patients. At present, India has one doctor for every 2000 patients and the aim is to double the availability of medics by 2021.
"The target is to improve the doctor-patient ratio to 1: 1000 by 2021," Ministry officials told MPs. They said the availability of nurses is even lesser with the nurse-physician ratio in India being 1.5: 1 as against 3: 1 mandated by international norms.
Surprisingly, the number of practising doctors and nurses are much lesser than those registered, show Ministry statistics. "There are 7.5 lakh registered doctors but only 5.5 lakh practicing doctors. Whereas registered nurse strength is 10.7 lakh, practicing nurse strength is just 4 lakh," Ministry data shared at the meeting shows, revealing the gaps.
Another issue was of increasing privatization of medical education. Of the 335 medical colleges, 181 are private and only 154 are government colleges.
Ministry data shows the country has added 35 colleges between 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 including 24 private and 11 government colleges. Of these, the maximum number of 21 colleges were added last year as against 14 in 2010 and 11 in 2009.
This year 46 new colleges have been set up, Azad said, referring to relaxation in Medical Council of India norms.
Data shared at the consultative committee meet shows that MBBS seats have gradually increased from 35,202 in 2009-10 to 41,569 in 2011-12. PG seats have increased from 13,043 in 2008-09 to 22,194 in the current academic session, an increase of 9,151 seats.
Meanwhile, the proposed common exams for admission to MBBS and MD courses all over the country will be held from the next academic session, Health Ministry officials said today.
The officials told MPs at the Consultative Committee Meeting on Health that the proposed common tests, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Undergraduate (NEET-UG) and Postgraduate (NEET-PG) medical courses, have been notified for commencement from 2013-14.
"The common entrance tests for admission to MBBS and MD courses have been notified on February 25, this year for commencement from academic year 2013-14," they said.
The NEET for admission to UG courses would be conducted by the CBSE and the NEET for PG courses would be carried out by the National Board of Examinations, they said.
"The common entrance tests are aimed at mitigating the need of students to appear in multiple tests and promote merit in admission process," the officials said at the meeting presided over by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The tests, earlier notified by the Medical Council of India (MCI), were to be first conducted from the current session but have been postponed due to lack of preparedness on its part, they said.
The officials said that the Bachelor of Rural Healthcare Course, proposed by the government to tide over the shortage of medical professionals in rural areas, would prepare rural healthcare cadre to treat 'common ailments' and not all ailments requiring expertise.
The course, which is opposed by doctors, is under the consideration of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and has faced opposition from the Indian Medical Association, which says the course would lead to different standards of public health delivery for urban and rural populations.