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Bengal’s big MBBS bungle

- Medical colleges set up to create more doctors without manpower and facilities to teach them

Bengal doesn’t produce enough doctors to meet its requirements because it repeatedly fails to provide infrastructure to sustain the few MBBS seats it has, let alone create facilities to increase the intake of students.

The Medical Council of India has this year slashed the number of medical seats from 2,200 to 1,550 for the state’s failure to comply with infrastructure and manpower norms for medical colleges. Seven of the eight medical colleges barred from admitting students or forced to cut their intake are state-run institutions.

The three new state-run medical colleges in Kamarhati, Malda and Murshidabad have been found to be short of beds, teachers, paramedics and OPD rooms. A few of them do not even have a blood bank licence yet, sources said citing the MCI report.

But rather than rectify the shortcomings, the state government is apparently trying to find fault with the MCI’s assessment.

“These reports are incorrect… Admissions will start in July and things will be settled before that,” said Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education.

He said the government had written to Delhi to make a concession, as had been done the previous two years based on a promise of compliance that Bengal failed to keep.

The MCI said it could “reconsider” the decision to slash seats only if Delhi made any such recommendation. “Our executive council will reconsider the plea if the Centre forwards the request. As of now, we haven’t received any,” Jayshreeben Mehta, president of the MCI, told Metro from Delhi.

The MCI has barred admission to all 100 seats each at Sagore Dutta Medical College in Kamarhati, Malda Medical College, Murshidabad Medical College and ESI Medical College in Joka, based on the infrastructure and manpower scan. The individual reports cite:

n Shortage of faculty and resident medical officers

n Absence of a paramedic in departments like haematology, serology, histopathology and cytology, physiology and community medicine

n Insufficient laboratory equipment

n Inadequate rooms in the outpatient department

n No blood bank

At Murshidabad Medical College, the assessors found resuscitation equipment in the operating theatre to be inadequate. Hostel facilities were also not up to scratch, the report said.

Sagore Dutta Medical College and Hospital received adverse remarks for having a common operating theatre for orthopaedic and general surgery. In the OPD, every department was found to be functioning from one room each. “Ideally, there should be five OPD rooms for each department because the number of senior doctors increases once a hospital is upgraded to a medical college,” an MCI official said.

Rooms are also required for senior doctors to train medical students in clinical diagnosis.

Malda Medical College and Hospital did not have ventilators, which are lifesavers for critically ill patients, when the inspection was carried out. The MCI report states that there were quarters for 18 resident medical officers, against the requirement of 85.

NRS Medical College and Hospital didn’t fare any better in the infrastructure scan. The MCI assessors reported a shortage of hostels and inadequate lecture theatres and autopsy rooms, among other shortcomings.

A senior official of the health department said there was little planning before the government upgraded some hospitals to medical colleges, leaving them exposed warts and all when the MCI did an infrastructure scan.

“The government should have planned five years in advance to improve infrastructure before increasing the seats, not the other way round. The government here decided to first increase seats and then work on infrastructure,” an MCI official said.

The new medical colleges where admissions have been barred this year are in various stages of construction. Academic blocks, hostels and some other buildings still aren’t ready. “The government’s policy of allotting contracts to the lowest bidders is faulty and has led to the delay in construction,” an official said.

Durgapur IQ City, a new private medical college, has also been asked not to admit students this year.

Bengal is not only producing fewer medical graduates than it requires, it also doesn’t have enough teaching doctors. Worse, the MCI has cut nearly 25 out of the state’s 1,000 postgraduate seats. Lower the number of postgraduates produced each year, fewer the prospective medical teachers available for recruitment.

“The number of PG seats should have increased several years ago. The present government’s effort to hire doctors from other states hasn’t succeeded either,” an official of the health department said.

Sources at Swastha Bhavan, the headquarters of the health department, said the government was planning to raise the age of retirement for teachers from 62 to 65 to make up for the shortage.

The MCI allows doctors to teach till 70 but the onus is on a state government to fix the retirement age. Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have already increased the retirement age for doctors to ensure they have a pool of teachers.

Karnataka has nearly 7,000 MBBS seats and Tamil Nadu around 6,000, including 3,000-odd in state-run institutions. Both states have a smaller population than Bengal’s 2011 census figure of 91.35 million.