Medical students are in for a bonanza with the government planning to double availability of undergraduate and postgraduate seats to meet a target of 80,000 MBBS and 45,000 PG seats in India by 2021.
The objective is also to improve the availability of doctors by ensuring a doctor-patient ratio of 1:1000 as against the current 1:2000 ratio, health ministry officials said.
The ministry of health and family welfare is targeting an additional 38,431 seats in the MBBS and 22,806 seats in the PG streams by 2021, representing a whopping rise of 92.45 per cent and 102.75 per cent respectively over the current availability.
The target is 80,000 MBBS seats and 45,000 PG seats by 2021, the officials said at the meeting of Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Health chaired by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in New Delhi on Monday. The meeting was called to discuss the scenario of medical infrastructure in the country.
At present, there are 41,569 MBBS seats in the 335 medical colleges across India and 22,194 PG seats. However, most of these seats and medical colleges are concentrated in the southern and western states with the central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh barely getting any share in medical infrastructure.
The ministry's latest data shows that 66 per cent of the 335 medical colleges and 69 per cent of the current MBBS seats are located at present in the southern and western states, including Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Goa.
Central India has only 5 per cent share each in medical colleges and undergraduate medical seats while eastern India, comprising Bihar and West Bengal, which feature among the five most populous states, have 10 per cent of India's medical colleges and just 9 per cent MBBS seats.
North India with the most populated state Uttar Pradesh is no better with only 17 per cent medical colleges and 16 per cent of MBBS seats available. The northeast has 3 per cent share each in medical colleges and MBBS seats, reflecting the skewed availability of resources.
Additional medical seats are being targeted to correct this imbalance to some extent and improve the availability of doctors for patients. At present, India has one doctor for every 2000 patients and the aim is to double the availability of medics by 2021.
"The target is to improve the doctor-patient ratio to 1:1000 by 2021," m,inistry officials told MPs. They said the availability of nurses is even lesser with the nurse-physician ratio in India being 1.5: 1 as against 3: 1 mandated by international norms.
Surprisingly, the number of practising doctors and nurses are much lesser than those registered, show ministry statistics. "There are 7.5 lakh registered doctors but only 5.5 lakh practicing doctors. Whereas registered nurse strength is 10.7 lakh, practicing nurse strength is just 4 lakh," ministry data shared at the meeting shows, revealing the gaps.
Another issue was of increasing privatisation of medical education. Of the 335 medical colleges, 181 are private and only 154 are government colleges.
Ministry data shows the country has added 35 colleges between 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 including 24 private and 11 government colleges. Of these, the maximum number of 21 colleges were added last year as against 14 in 2010 and 11 in 2009.
This year 46 new colleges have been set up, Azad said, referring to relaxation in Medical Council of India norms.
Data shared at the consultative committee meet shows that MBBS seats have gradually increased from 35,202 in 2009-10 to 41,569 in 2011-12. PG seats have increased from 13,043 in 2008-09 to 22,194 in the current academic session, an increase of 9,151 seats.
Those who attended the meeting include Minister of State for Health Sudip Bandyopadhyay and MPs Deepa Dashmunsi, Shailendra Kumar, P Venugopal, Sanjay Singh Chauhan, R C Dome, Mirza Mehboob Beg, M Jagannath, Prasanta Kumar Majumdar and Virendra Kumar, Rajya Sabha members Motilal Vohra, CP Thakur, K V P Ramachandra Rao, Oscar Fernandes and Baishnab Parida.