An addition of more than 4000 PG medical seats has been approved by the Government of India for admissions to various medical colleges and hospitals through the National Eligibility cum Entrance Examination (NEET) PG for the academic year 2017-18, Union Health Minister J. P. Nadda announced on Thursday, March 2. Calling it a “huge boost to medical education in the country”, Minister Nadda said that there had been a total addition of 4,193 PG seats in the country out of which 2,046 seats were in medical colleges. “With this, the total number of PG medical seats rises to 35,117”, he added.
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The increase in postgraduate medical seats has been in the pipeline ever since Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared it as a priority issue for the Government in his Union Budget speech on February 1. “We need to ensure adequate availability of specialist doctors to strengthen Secondary and Tertiary levels of healthcare. We have therefore decided to take steps to create additional 5,000 Post Graduate seats per annum,” Mr. Jaitley had said. The Government’s focus on the expansion of PG medical seats had emerged out of concerns over consistent shortage in the number of doctors per 1000 population as per WHO norms as well as the difficulty in getting qualified faculty for medical colleges. In a press release issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the day of the budget, it was highlighted that the Government intended to open around 100 new medical colleges in the next 4-5 years for which six to ten thousand additional faculty members would be required. Mr Jaitley in his speech had also focussed upon plans to strengthen postgraduate teaching in select ESI and Municipal Corporation Hospitals and the steps being taken to introduce Diplomate of National Board (DNB) courses in big district Hospitals while encouraging reputed private hospitals to offer the same.
Infact, as per a gazette notification released by the Medical Council of India (MCI) on January 31, the day before the budget, the MCI had amended the “Postgraduate Medical Education Regulations, 2000” and revised the teacher student ratio to increase PG seats in clinical subjects.
Under the Clause 12 (1) heading ‘Number of Postgraduate Students to be admitted’, it was added that “...the teacher:student ratio shall be 1:3 for Professor and 1:2 for Associate Professor if the Associate Professor is a unit head, in all clinical subjects.” And under the Clause 12(2) heading ‘Number of Postgraduate Students to be admitted’, it was added that “...the teacher:student ratio shall be 1:3 for Professor and 1:2 for Associate Professor if the Associate Professor is a unit head, in all clinical subjects.”
This meant that the professor-to-student ratio for PG courses had been raised from 1:2 to 1:3 and in the case of assistant professors, the teacher-student ratio had been raised from 1:1 to 1:2. The measure was expected to yield about 5000 additional PG seats in clinical subjects in the coming years, declared the Health Ministry’s press release the next day.
Mr Nadda also alluded to the MCI amendment in his March 2 announcement, stating that it had resulted in the creation of 1137 medical seats in 71 colleges. It was likely that 1000 more seats would be added in March 2017 once proposals were received from all of the Government’s 212 colleges. This would include DNB seats, equivalent to MD/MS, which had risen to 2147 in the past year. Taking all of this into consideration, it was highly likely that the Government would achieve its target of adding 5000 PG medical seats soon, Mr. Nadda declared. NEET PG, introduced in 2016, will serve as the single window entrance examination for admissions to all of these seats.
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