Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Medical colleges struggle to get good faculty

At a time when 31,000 students battle for 2,200-odd seats in Tamil Nadu this year, the state government's efforts to increase the number of MBBS seats have come a cropper. After an inspection in January, the Medical Council of India (MCI), the apex regulatory body for medical education in the country, cited faculty shortage and poor infrastructure facilities to reject TN's request to increase the seats from 150 to 250 each in Madurai, Tirunelveli and Coimbatore medical colleges. It also turned down Kanyakumari Government Medical College's request to increase seats from 100 to 150.

"In the recruitment conducted by Medical Services Recruitment Board at the end of 2014, only around 300 applications were received for the post of 1,727 assistant surgeons. Hardly 100 joined. Still there are more than 1,500 vacancies for specialists," said Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association President Dr K Senthil.

Even if the state government takes immediate steps to rectify the issue, it will take a few years to get adequate specialists, he said. "It will take time for the existing faculty members to get promoted to associate and assistant professor cadres," he said.

Medical experts said infrastructure facilities could be improved by pumping in more money but it would not be easy to increase the number of teachers in medical colleges in the near future. For example, they said, the Tiruvannamalai Government Medical College, which was started three years ago, was managing with just 50% of the required faculty in departments like obstetrics and gynaecology. Drawing up a long-term strategy and executing it alone will help, they said.

While the shortage of teaching faculty in the Coimbatore college was 17.98%, in Tirunelveli it was 16.73%, Madurai 14.60% and Kanyakumari 18.2%. There are plenty of vacancies in resident doctor categories as well in these colleges. For example, the shortage in this category in Tirunelveli is 26.59 %, while it is 10.20% in Kanyakumari. In October 2014, when the first inspection was conducted by MCI, Madurai had the worst shortage of 30%.

A senior health department official said it was an open secret that the authorities were managing the situation by adopting ad hoc measures like deputation. "Whenever there is an inspection, specialists are deployed from other colleges to evade the wrath of MCI. However, if MCI takes cognizance of the issue, the individual doctors will be in trouble as they stand the risk of being disqualified," he added.

While opening new colleges was welcome, the government should also focus on strengthening the existing institutions, said Doctors' Association for Social Equality general secretary Dr G R Ravindranath. "The important strategy to address the teaching faculty problem is to promote non-clinical courses," he said. Many people shunned teaching as it involved long work hours and the pay was low, he said. "The government should increase their salaries and offer promotions," said Dr Ravindranath.

Source: The Times of India, June 23, 2015

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