NEW DELHI: In what could open the door to a major shift in the way specialist doctors are trained in India, the country’s top medical education regulator is considering allowing private hospitals to offer standalone postgraduate degrees without having the prerequisite of an MBBS programme.
At present, only medical colleges that have been offering the MBBS programme for at least three years are allowed to offer PG (MD and MS) courses, once they fulfill the specified criteria. The Medical Council of India’s (MCI) Board of Governors has recently constituted a five-member committee, under AIIMS, Delhi director Dr Randeep Guleria to examine the proposal and finalise its modalities.
“The move is aimed at fulfilling the wide gap between demand and supply of specialist doctors within a few years,” said a senior member of the MCI Board of Governors. Certain private hospitals are allowed to offer two-year DNB degrees under the National Board of Examination, now considered equivalent to PG, but the training offered through the programme is often viewed as inferior when compared to PG degrees, said sources in MCI.
Officials in the medical education regulator said the proposal was being taken forward to ensure the issue of shortage of specialists in even states with limited numbers of medical colleges is addressed. “Medical colleges in the country are concentrated largely in southern states and Maharashtra. States with the highest population have the worst doctor-population ratios,” said an MCI official. “This issue won’t be resolved unless we come up with major reforms, like the proposed one,” the official added.
Expert feels MCI should rethink plan
The proposal comes close on the heels of another plan by the MCI-BOG to allow PG doctors to complete a three-month residency in district hospitals across India under the District Hospital Medical Residency Scheme which may push the PG seats by about 10,000 within a year. As of now, there are about 40,000 PG seats in medicine in the country.
Not everybody however is enthused by the idea.“I feel that the regulator is confused and many of its proposals and decisions contradict its stance and this includes the present plan,” said Dr Arun Kumar, former director of the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences in Patna.
“For instance, many private medical colleges which are designed to train doctors are not allowed to offer PG courses due to the strict MCI norms while DNB courses are offered in hospitals which are only focused on the clinical part and don’t provide quality training,” he said.
“If private hospitals are given permission to offer PG, how will the students get trained in basic sciences and pre-clinical and para-clinical subjects?” Shouldn’t the regulator pay attention to ensure medical colleges are competent instead of allowing revenue stream for private hospitals, he asked.