July 29, 2007

No foreign degrees, says MCI

Miffed by increasing number of Indian students being lured by foreign universities, the Medical Council of India has made it clear it will not recognise any foreign medical degree.

The council, which regulates all medical colleges in the country, has not permitted foreign universities either to start India campus or start a medical course leading to degree equivalent to MBBS in India.

The MCI's warning has come in the wake of complaints that agents are luring Indian students to foreign universities. "What is shocking is that these universities are offering medical courses where the student needs to study part of the course in India and the other part in the university. And they are looking at India part to be recognised by the MCI," council sources told The Times of India .

The MCI's fear is not unfounded. In the past six months, 1,700 Indian students have joined Chinese universities to study medical courses.

Nothing wrong except that many agents hired by the universities are admitting students on the promise of getting MCI approval before he/she completes the course. As per the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, no medical college can start a course without the Centre's prior permission.

As per regulation 9 of the screening test regulations under the Act, the eligibility certificate is valid for candidates only to join a medical institution outside India and obtain a primary medical qualification.

They have to undergo screening test on return before they can be registered with any Medical Council. The certificate cannot be used by any student to join an institution in India saying the degrees are awarded by foreign universities.

July 25, 2007

High-end hospitals switch to self-marketing

It is fairly common to find hospitals advertising themselves through hoardings in the city through surrogate advertisements. The healthcare market is turning very competitive and many more hospitals are sitting on the sidelines to join the bandwagon.

The growing health consciousness, affordability factor, double-income families and medical insurance cover are expanding the healthcare market. There is no dearth of hospitals wanting to cash in on the opportunity. There are some others too waiting to jump in.

“There is space for everyone” is the refrain from those running these hospitals. The demand for high-end healthcare is only “taking off” is the argument and all expect the demand to shoot up. But, no one is ready to accept that they are fighting for patients.

“There are restrictions on advertising any medical facility and we at Columbia Asia adhere to the guidelines as circulated by the Medical Council of India. This way we ensure that we maintain ethical and legal standards of providing information on our services and facilities,” says Dr Nandakumar Jairam, chairman and group medical director, Columbia Asia.

Every hospital has its own strategy to face the growing competition. Columbia Asia claims it highlights its offerings by focussing on medical care, insisting on quality assurance through medical audit, offering customer value for money for the medical facilities and work on the ambience and infrastructure.

Other hospitals do use the media and other options of mass communication for advertising to provide information. One way of marketing itself, in the case of a hospital, is by “patient experience”, which is what Manipal Hospital claims to do and by other methods that ensure that they are not on the wrong side.

“Continuing medical education programmes are advertisements for us,” says R Basil, MD and CEO, Manipal Health Systems. Standardisation of pleasant patient experience is the key, he adds. The hospital has launched loyalty programmes to add value, personalised care and “standardisation of pleasant patient experience”.

“Some of the hospitals are showcasing cutting edge technology or specialised clinics to attract patients who need such care,” says Dr Bhujang Shetty, medical director, Narayana Nethralaya. Medical centres should limit their advertising to services that have “a likelihood of improving the public health”, he adds.

It’s not ethical to overstep the bounds of patient trust by advertising services of questionable benefit and using fear to attract patients. Hospitals should “think about how they advertise, really avoid scaring people, exaggerating benefits or creating false hopes”, feels Dr Shetty.

Lloyd Nazareth, head, Wockhardt Hospitals-Bangalore, adds, “We tell people what we offer and what’s new through the news media and through our continuing medical education, training for doctors and such other means.” How else will people know where to go for their specific healthcare needs, he asks.

But, laments a top official of a hospital chain: “In India every drug is an OTC (over-the-counter) drug and it is not tough to advertise in India. But, it is a grey area.” He says when a hospital is offering new services how else can they inform people of what’s new they are offering.

July 18, 2007

National survey of hospitals soon

Concerned over the deplorable condition of hospitals, especially those catering to pregnant women, government is planning to carry out a national survey of hospitals to find out how they are functioning and upgrade the facilities. “We are planning to carry out a national hospital survey, especially of 100-bedded hospitals in the country. Some of these hospitals are in a deplorable condition,” Union health minister Mr Anbumani Ramadoss said today. He said in some of the hospitals mother and her new-born child are found lying outside the ward because of space constraint. “A 50-bedded hospital carries out 200 to 300 deliveries. The survey will help us find out how they are functioning. The information will help us upgrade the facilities and to expand them,” he said.

July 17, 2007

Australia plans ads to fight racism against doctors

In the wake of a racist backlash following the questioning of Indian doctors in connection with the botched UK terror plots, Australian authorities on Wednesday said they will launch an advertising campaign to check discrimination against overseas trained medics.

“We are developing an advertising campaign to encourage the broader community to show support for the over 2,150 overseas-trained doctors working in public and private health facilities in Queensland,” said Queensland Health Minister Stephen Robertson.

Robertson told a Parliamentary panel about his worry that the detention of Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef may scare away international medical graduates from the state. He added that Queensland Premier Peter Beattie met leaders of the state’s Muslim community on Wednesday to assure them of the government’s “ongoing support” .

“It is important for all Queenslanders to understand that Australia has not trained enough doctors, nurses and allied health professionals to meet the demands of the public and private health systems and our growing population,” Robertson added.

The minister said it was not the time for a “minority” in the community to use recent events to verbally assault or discriminate against overseas-trained doctors in Queensland.“There is never a time when this behaviour should be tolerated,” he said, adding “racism and bigotry have no place in our hospitals or the wider community.”

July 08, 2007

Doctors in Jammu & Kashmir to train in Psychiatry

Post-traumatic stress disorders are now becoming common among people in militancy-ravaged Jammu and Kashmir.

Though over 80,000 people from Kashmir alone complained of depression during 2005-2006 with over three-fourths of them being diagnosed with serious psychological disorders, the state has just 13 experts dealing with mental health.
This has now made the Union health ministry decide to train all MBBS doctors in J&K in short-term courses to deal with psychiatric disorders. As part of its plan to revamp the National Mental Health Programme, which Union health minister A Ramadoss’s admits "isn’t doing well", the ministry has decided to train state health workers in identifying mental disorders besides creating a special 4-6-month-long training programme for MBBS doctors in identifying basic disorders before referring severe cases to specialists.

Ramadoss said, "India is facing an acute shortage of psychiatrists. While over 30,000 psychiatrists are required to serve a billion people, there are only 3,300 practising in the country, 80% of whom work in metros." With nearly one in 10 people reported having lost one or more members of their immediate family due to violence from 1989-2005 in J&K, a recent survey by Medecines Sans Frontiers found that nearly 48.1% people felt only occasionally or never safe. Respondents reported suffering from high levels of anxiety, nervousness, tension and extensive worrying.

The survey found respondents complaining of headaches (23.5%), body pains such as joint and back complaints (20.5%) and abdominal complaints (16.9%). Medicine consumption was also high, with over one-third taking six or more medicines in the previous 30 days.

Most of the people dealt with stress by isolating themselves (22.3%) or becoming aggressive (16%). Nearly 33.9% of those surveyed admitted to having thoughts about ending their life. This made the grand Mufti of Kashmir recently issue an edict terming suicide un-Islamic and asking people to stay away from the funerals of those who killed themselves.

"Over 8% of the Indian population is facing some sort of mental problem, of which over 1.5% needs special care. Suicide is a major threat with poverty, debt, illiteracy and violence being the main causes behind it. We plan to provide basic mental health training to doctors at the primary health care centres. The proposal would cover 400 districts in the next three years and all the districts within five years," Ramadoss said.

July 01, 2007

Rural posting for doctors to be made compulsory

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has approved the proposal for compulsory rural posting for doctors. One year posting in rural and inaccessible areas will now be made part of the curriculum.

Once approved by the Medical Council of India (MCI), this would mean that the MBBS course would now be of six and a half years instead of the present five and a half years.

The proposal requires an amendment to the MCI Act that needs to be approved by Parliament. The new curriculum will be applicable from the 2008-09 academic year, after being passed by Parliament.

Applicable to all medical colleges

According to Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, the proposal, if approved, will be applicable to both the government and private medical colleges.

India churns out 29,500 medical graduates annually but even then there are few healthcare facilities in the rural and far-flung areas.

The one-year rural posting will include serving at the district headquarters for four months, community health centres for another four months and the primary health centres for the remaining four months.

The doctors will be given a monthly stipend of Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 10,000 as an incentive to work in these areas, Dr. Ramadoss said.

They will be based at the district headquarters and will serve under the District Health Officer.

Earlier there was a proposal to make rural postings compulsory after the MBBS course and a doctor will have to serve in the rural areas for at least one year before he applied for a post-graduation course.

However, this proposal was dropped.

The proposal was mooted keeping in mind the poor healthcare facilities in the rural areas, particularly the shortage of doctors as even the government doctors are reluctant to serve in these regions and would rather join the private sector for better salaries and an urban posting.

Docs may store info under your skin

Doctors could soon be storing essential medical information under the skin of their patients, the American Medical Association says.

Devices the size of a grain of rice that are implanted with a needle could give emergency room doctors quick access to the records of chronically ill patients, America's largest doctors group said in a report.

The association adopted a policy on Monday stating that the devices can improve the "safety and efficiency of patient care" by helping to identify patients and enabling secure access to clinical information.

These radio frequency identification tags (RFIDs) are already used by Wal-Mart and other businesses to speed up their shipping systems by sending out small signals that can be scanned more easily than bar codes.

Implanting them in people "can improve the continuity and coordination of care with resulting reductions in adverse drug events and other medical errors," said the report prepared by the association's ethics committee. But the devices "also may pose some physical risks, compromise patient privacy, or present other social hazards."

The main concern is protecting the privacy of the information stored on the devices. There are also health concerns.

While the devices are removable and designed to stay in place, their small size could allow them to move to other parts of a person's body.

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