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Cloud on proposed health cradles

The state government’s plan to start three new medical colleges might fall flat for the fifth consecutive year. If two institutions are woefully short of teachers, another does not fulfil the criteria for inspection by Medical Council of India (MCI).

The government had sanctioned as many as 1,785 posts for the proposed medical colleges in Madhepura, Bettiah and Pawapuri in 2007. Five years have passed since then, the Madhepura and Bettiah medical colleges have only 16 and 46 teachers, respectively — way behind than the requisite faculty at a 100-seat medical college.

The government had been planning to start the Pawapuri Medical College in Nalanda from the next academic session with a strength of 68 teachers. But the institution, too, could miss out on the MCI permission to start MBBS course. A section of faculty members, posted at the institution, have not been paid their salary for nine months after the Nalanda district magistrate (DM) objected to it.

The health department dispatched incomplete forms for the inspection of the Pawapuri college on Wednesday in a hurry to meet the April 13 deadline set by the MCI.

“The last date for sending declaration forms to MCI was March 28. However, it was extended by 15 days after we pleaded to the Nalanda DM to clear the payments. The application forms to the MCI require teachers to be paid their salaries for at least a year before a college is inspected for permission to start a medical college. As it did not happen, the incomplete forms, along with a fee of Rs 3.5 lakh, were sent to the MCI on Wednesday,” said a source at the health department.

This year, the health department has spent over Rs 10 lakh (Rs 3.5 lakh for inspection of each college) to apply for the MCI inspections for the three proposed institutions.

Nalanda DM Sanjay Kumar Agarwal, however, defended his decision to stop the teachers’ salaries.

Agarwal told The Telegraph: “Three teachers who were offering services in the outdoor department of Nalanda Sadar Hospital were given salaries, while we have cleared the names of five others who are on deputation to Patna Medical College and Hospital. The rest cannot be given salaries according to the government’s no-work-no-pay policy as they were not working in Nalanda or at medical colleges from where they had been appointed for Pawapuri Medical College.”

He added that as the government was keen to start the medical college this year, the doctors concerned were “taken to task”. “We cannot start the medical college if the teachers appointed there do not report to work. They have to understand their responsibilities,” said Agarwal.

Principal secretary (health) Amarjeet Sinha said the MCI inspection at Pawapuri should not be affected by non-payment of salaries. “There are three categories of doctors at Pawapuri. There are ones who were posted at the hospital and are working elsewhere. Then there are doctors who worked in Nalanda. The third category of doctors was not working anywhere. But their number is few and their salaries were stopped by the DM. We have asked him to clear the payments of the rest of the doctors. We also intend to fill the vacancies by May-end ahead of the MCI inspection,” said Sinha.

While all three proposed colleges are short of their required strength of teachers, most of the doctors appointed for work at medical colleges in Patna, Muzaffarpur, Darbhanga and Bhagalpur. Work to put the required infrastructure in place at the three places has also been extremely slow.