Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to instruct the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to temporarily suspend the notification issued by the National Medical Commission (NMC) that restricts the establishment of new medical colleges. The directive, as outlined in the letter, has sparked controversy and raised concerns about encroachment on states' rights and hindrances to the development of healthcare infrastructure.
The NMC's notification, effective from the academic year 2023-2024, stipulates that new medical colleges can only be granted permission for annual intake capacities of 50, 100, or 150 seats, contingent on adherence to a ratio of 100 MBBS seats for every 10 lakh population in a state or union territory.
Chief Minister Stalin expressed deep reservations about this decision, considering it a direct infringement on the autonomy of state governments and a penalty on those states that have invested significantly in bolstering their public health systems over the years.
Mr Stalin argued that progressive states like Tamil Nadu had made substantial strides in fortifying their tertiary healthcare networks, resulting in a surplus of medical professionals and improved health indicators. Chennai, in particular, has emerged as a hub for healthcare excellence, serving not only Tamil Nadu but also the wider nation and international patients.
Consequently, there is a growing demand for quality healthcare services, necessitating the establishment of new institutions to meet this future demand.
The Chief Minister emphasised that the criteria proposed by the NMC, which consider the doctor-population ratio at the state level, were flawed. Despite an overall abundance of doctors at the state level, there are still districts grappling with insufficient medical services. According to the chief minister, opening new medical colleges in the underserved areas was the key to resolving this persistent issue.
Tamil Nadu has the highest number of 74 medical colleges in the country, including a bulk of private medical colleges largely owned by politicians. The new order will jeopardise the state's vision to have at least one government medical college in each district.
Mr Stalin pointed out that in states like Tamil Nadu, where the doctor-population ratio was relatively high, this achievement had been primarily due to investments made by state governments and the private sector, not the Union government. He noted that efforts to encourage Union government investments in the healthcare sector, such as the AIIMS project in Madurai, had been slow to materialise. Restricting the establishment of new institutions, as per the NMC's notification, would further diminish the prospects of Tamil Nadu receiving future healthcare investments from the Union Government.
The Chief Minister's letter also cited a recent Supreme Court judgment (Civil Appeal No. 6681 of 2002), which affirmed that executive instructions should not impose unreasonable restrictions on the fundamental right to establish educational institutions.
Mr Stalin appealed to Prime Minister Modi to instruct the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to temporarily suspend the NMC's notification and engage in a consultative process with state governments to address this complex issue collaboratively.