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Plea plus prescription Last bid to save seats

Bengal has drawn up a list of steps to take to improve infrastructure in medical colleges, hoping that intent alone will impress the Union health ministry enough to recommend restoration of 600-odd MBBS seats scrapped by the Medical Council of India.

The outcome of the review requested by the state government is expected in the first fortnight of July.

Bengal had 2,450 MBBS seats in state-run and private medical colleges before the MCI barred admission to 1,045 of them, based on an assessment of infrastructure and manpower. The council restored 400 of those seats last Saturday after an executive council meeting.

The decision on the remaining 645 seats depends on what the Union health ministry thinks about Bengal’s commitment to improving infrastructure. The promised steps include installing pre-fabricated structures for classrooms and auditoriums, creating space to expand libraries, hiring retired teachers and recruiting 400-odd junior medical teachers.

“Some deficiencies pointed out by the MCI are genuine. But there are other issues that do not affect MBBS courses directly and we will discuss all these,” said Moloy Kumar De, secretary of the state health department.

Metro draws up a dossier of objections raised by the MCI and the state’s response ahead of the all-important review.

Faculty shortage

MCI’s mandate: Fill all vacancies in state-run medical colleges where seats have been scrapped.

At Sagore Dutta Medical College, the MCI found 10 assistant professors against the sanctioned strength of 25. According to the assessment report, 26 out of 46 senior doctors and 52 out of 56 junior resident medical officers were not on duty at the time of the inspection.

Malda Medical College and Hospital didn’t fare any better. Only 18 out of 111 teachers, including professors, associate professors, assistant professors and tutors, were present during the inspection.

Older institutions like RG Kar Medical College and Calcutta Medical College reported a faculty shortage of 11 per cent and 25.5 per cent respectively.

Bengal’s plea: The state government started a recruitment drive in March and 450 resident medical officers have been hired since.

“In the past three months, we have written to many retired teachers, requesting them to rejoin government medical colleges. We have already started receiving applications from them,” Sushanta Banerjee, the director of medical education, said.

The government intends to also recruit teaching doctors on contract, he said. The state has already raised the retirement age of teaching doctors from 62 to 65 years.

Poor infrastructure

MCI’s mandate: Upgrade infrastructure to get back seats.

According to the MCI’s assessment reports, Calcutta Medical College has three lecture theatres with seating for 175 against the stipulated six, including at least one that can accommodate 650.

RG Kar Medical College and Hospital has three lecture theatres with space for 260 and two fit for 175 students, whereas the requirement is six of 300 capacity and one that can seat 650.

SSKM has two lecture theatres, each able to accommodate 120 against the requirement of 180. The area of its central library is 1,000sqm against the recommended 2,400sqm. The institute doesn’t have a proper auditorium, the MCI said.

At Sagore Dutta and Malda medical colleges, several academic and hospital buildings are still under construction.

Bengal’s plea: “We are taking steps on a war footing to improve infrastructure in various medical colleges,” the director of medical education said.

A new contractor has been selected to speed up construction of buildings at Sagore Datta and Malda medical colleges. “We have scrapped our contract with the previous contractor, who missed several deadlines. We expect the new company to finish 90 per cent of the job by the end of this year,” Banerjee said.

Overcrowded wards

MCI’s mandate: Take immediate steps to increase capacity and enforce cleanliness and hygiene.

Teams of inspectors found wards across state-run institutions teeming with patients and the standard of cleanliness appalling.

“There is no demonstration room in most of the wards. The distance between two beds is not maintained at 1.5 metres,” the report on SSKM states.

“There is overcrowding…. Cleanliness and hygiene are very poor,” says the report on RG Kar.

Bengal’s plea: Health officials say government hospitals have little option but to live with overcrowding. “We have told health ministry officials that it is not possible to stop overcrowding at medical colleges that are overburdened with patients. There is a Supreme Court ruling under which we can’t refuse a moribund patient,” health secretary Moloy Kumar De said.

Hostel shortage

MCI’s mandate: Arrange for accommodation commensurate with number of students and interns.

At Calcutta Medical College, the MCI found the hostel capacity 780 against the minimum requirement of 938. Accommodation available for interns and resident medical officers was 321 against a requirement of 439. Other medical colleges too fell short.

Bengal’s plea: “We are upgrading accommodation facilities at the medical colleges. The number of rooms are being increased,” a health department official said.

“However, globally, most institutes don’t have enough accommodation for all its students.”