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Crisis in Medical Education

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Dr. Devi Shetty, India’s leading cardiologist and Chairman of Narayana Hrudayalaya, on the state of Medical Education in India.

India suffers from a serious shortage of undergraduate and postgraduate medical seats. This spawns a web of corruption in medical education. If ten lakh people apply for admission into a medical course and there are only 10,000 seats, naturally a lot of money would exchange hands.
It takes Rs. 400 crore to build a medical college. If you go to Caribbean region, there are 35 medical colleges which are training doctors for the United States. It is ridiculous to have 140 faculty members to train 100 medical students and Rs. 400 crore for raising an edifice for the medical college. One hundred faculty members can train 1,000 students. When the whole world has changed, we have not changed at all. What we have done is that we have made medical education an elitist affair. When I was a medical student, all my fellow students were children from poor families. Now children from poor families are not dreaming of becoming a medical doctor. This will have serious consequences. Because these are people who have magic fingers and fire in the belly to work for 24 hours to change the rules of the games.
The children from the rich families will choose dermatology, cosmetology and radiology and will go home at 5 ‘o’ clock. Why should PG students be asked to pay Rs. two crore to five crore to become specialists. All over the world the higher medical education is free of cost.
Essentially, all the problems in the healthcare are not caused by the Government. It is because the privileged society is not asking the right question. Why a pregnant lady should die during childbirth? Why three lakh children die the day they are born? Why 1.2 million kids die before they celebrate their first birthday. It is unacceptable.
Statistically, if all pregnant women can undergo antenatal health check-up, only 14 to 15% of them would need caesarian section which translates into 5.2 million caesarian sections every year. To do that we need two lakh gynaecologists. But currently we have only 50,000 gynaecologists. Of them, half do not practice obstetrics because they do not want to be woken up at night and all of them live in cities while 60% children are born in rural India. We need two lakh anaesthetists. We have less than 50,000 of them in the country. If there would be two lakh pediatricians in the country, they can take care of all the children born in the country. But we have less than 50,000 pediatricians. We need 1.5 lakh radiologists. But we have less than 10,500 radiologists. Then how do you expect the maternal mortality to come down. This has got nothing to do with money. This country does not need additional budgetary allocation. Instead, this country needs liberating medical, nursing and paramedical education. That’s all.
(Source: Dr. Devi Shetty’s speech at the Ideas Exchange summit organized by the Indian Express.)