Unhealthy precedent

Updated: Aug 5 2005, 05:30am hrs
Union health minister Anbumani Ramadoss has set an unhealthy example by overruling the findings of the Medical Council of India (MCI) and granting permission to a private medical college in Ghaziabad to double its student intake, even though it does not fulfil MCIs criteria for recognition of private medical colleges. Indeed, the health ministry seems to have very little regard for MCI norms, as the Ghaziabad college is not the only one. There are nine others, equally dubious. So much so, the Supreme Court this week ruled that the applications of these colleges for renewal of recognition be considered only after the MCI has inspected their premises and given its report.

It is easy to shrug off this incident as just another instance of the failure of the executive, forcing the judiciary to step into the breach. But what makes it particularly unfortunate is that the act of commission comes from a minister, a doctor himself, who ought to know just how high the stakes are for any country that churns out ill-qualified doctors. Moreover, we already have a statutory body, the MCI, to do the job. The ministers explanationthat there is an Allahabad high court order in favour of the Ghaziabad-based private medical college and an inspection was done by the directorate-general of health servicesdoes not wash. The reality is that facilities at the insti-tute in question simply do not meet even minimum standards.

What is even more ironic is that the law strengthened by the Centre in 1993 to check the mushrooming of private medical colleges in the country without basic infrastructure in place is now being subverted by the Centre itself. How else can the health ministry explain the fact that MCI inspections are being treated with such disregard

Of the roughly 160 medical colleges in the country, around one-third are private ones. They fulfil an important need, of providing medical education and facilities in a country with limited resources. But should they be granted recognition even at the cost of risking a students career or a patients health Dr Ramadoss, a medical practitioner himself, should know better.