July 31, 2009

Regulatory body to train doctors

The government is planning an overarching regulatory body, the National Council for Human Resources in Health Sector (NCHRH), to train doctors and paramedics. This will mean either scrapping of or combining the Medical Council of India, the Dental Council, Nursing Council and Councils
under Ayush. A taskforce constituted by Health Ministry will meet on July 31 to present the concept paper and action plan for NCHRH.

Key elements of the draft Bill for amendment in the Medical Education Act (Medical Council Act-1956) will later go to the Law Ministry and the PMO. The taskforce will look into shortage of doctors, ways of creating new resource, and cross-connectivity in medical education.

Sources said the decision to draft a concept paper was taken after HRD minister Kapil Sibal announced an integrated authority to sanction new professional colleges. The minister had said all regulatory agencies, including the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Medical Council of India (MCI), Dental Council of India (DCI), are likely to be scrapped.

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“The NCHRH was proposed by President Pratibha Patil in her address to the Parliament. Medical human resource and human resource development in other fields are two different things,” said an official.

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that setting up of the council is a part of a long-term policy to tackle the acute shortage of specialised doctors and trained paramedics in the country.

The taskforce includes eminent names like Dr Devi Shetty, Dr Ranjit Roy Chaudhary and Dr K S Reddy, among others.

Link: Original Article

July 18, 2009

Medical transcription bucks trend

In a US hospital, a patient in critical condition is wheeled into the emergency room. The doctor orders various tests and the report dictated by the physician is sent to Pune, to a Medical Transcription (MT) company. An hour later, back in the US, the doctor starts the surgery aided by the transcript from the Pune company.

After hitting a low in 2002, the MT industry in the country started showing signs of revival in 2006 and has now come of age with not even the global economic slowdown affecting the workflow from the US.

Many MT companies in Pune are in the expansion mode and are on a huge hiring spree.

“There has been no effect of the slowdown on our business. In fact the volume of business has reached a high and we are planning to recruit 100 hands soon to meet the growing volume. We acquired a US MT firm Medical Bazar in 2006 and are now finalising a joint venture with Lotus Logistic in the US. We will hold 75 per cent stake there,” said Sumanta Gupta, Managing Director, Crossover Medical Technology Inc that caters to over 80 clinics in the US. Crossover is also starting its centre in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Alappuzha in Kerala.

Another Pune-based MT firm, Sharp Hearing Technologies, is also in the hiring mode.

“We are finalising a contract with a big hospital in California with 1,200 doctors. As soon as the deal is done, we will recruit 100 more employees,” said Yogesh Bhosle, Managing Director, Sharp Hearing Technologies.

According to him, after it started reviving in 2006, the MT industry has matured and only truly healthy ones survived.

“MT training institutes were mushrooming before it hit a low. Many closed down or moved to other jobs. Now, the qualified workforce and industry maturity are some of the main reasons that draw greater amount of work from the US,” said Bhosle, who plans to employ 90 out of the fresh 100 it is recruiting as home-based transcriptioners.

According to A Chetan of Bangalore-based Lloyds Solutions Pvt Ltd, the scene is no different in Bangalore. “The work volume for MT firms in general has picked up. The reason attributed to it is the quality of delivery that the Indian firms offer. As for us we have 6 major hospitals and 4 clinics as clients. We have an employment strength of 200 and plan to hire more as per the increase in the volume of work,” he said.

As per a recent strategic report of NASSCOM, the MT segment in India that earns an annual revenue aggregate of approximately $ 220-240 million and the MT industry will be worth Rs 40 billion by 2010 and could employ as many as 50,000 people.

The work off-shored was expected to be in the region of $ 860 million in 2010, of which India is expected to capture $ 647 million.

Link: Original Article

Entire British population to be offered swine flu jab

British health authorities on Monday reported the death of a healthy seven-year-old girl from swine flu, as the entire nation was offered vaccination against the H1N1 virus that has infected more than 9,000 people.

The first batch of the jab is expected to arrive in Britain in about two months, and some 20 million people are to be inoculated by Christmas.


The entire population of 60 million will be offered protection by the middle of next year in what has been described as the biggest mass vaccination programme in Britain since the small pox vaccination 50 years ago.

The priorities for the vaccination programme have been listed as frontline medical staff - led by Britain's 1,940 General Practitioners, social workers, the elderly, under-fives and those suffering from asthma, diabetes or weak immune systems.

Meanwhile, the death of a seven-year-old London girl without any underlying health problems took the swine flu toll in Britain to 16.

The girl fell ill with a sore throat last week but her doctor sent her home without giving her the Tamiflu antiviral drug saying she had tonsillitis, the Sun reported.

Her condition deteriorated overnight and she was taken to hospital Thursday morning where she died hours later.

The British government ordered 132 million vaccine doses two months ago at a cost of 155 million pounds to deal with a virus that is reported to have infected 9,718 people in Britain - the third highest after Mexico and the US.

The Department of Health said it expects supplies of the vaccine, which is still being developed, to start becoming available by early autumn.

Around 60 million doses are expected to be available by the end of the year - enough to vaccinate around half of Britain's population with two doses per person, a spokesman said.

"If the virus mutates, it can get a lot more nasty - and the idea is to give people immunity. But the sheer logistics of dealing with 60 million people cannot be underestimated," said Peter Holden, the British Medical Association's lead negotiator on swine flu.

A Health Department spokesman said Sunday night: "We have now signed contracts with manufacturers to supply enough vaccine for the whole population once it has been developed," The Sun reported.

A spokesman for the British prime minister said: "There has been extensive preparation in Downing Street and across the Civil Service to minimise the spread of swine flu."

The British media reported Monday that Prime Minister Gordon Brown banned his senior climate change adviser Michael Jacobs from attending the recent G8 summit in Italy after the official came down with swine flu.

Link: Original Article

July 11, 2009

IRDA moots health insurance for non-hospital expenses

Insurance companies must bring out health products based on the expenditure incurred by patients apart from the hospitalisation charges, said Mr J. Hari Narayan, Chairman, Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority.

Hospitalisation expenses are estimated to be one-third of the total medical expenditure in the country.

Currently, health insurance products cover expenses only on hospitalisation. But there are instances when an individual suffering from a critical illness undergoes medical treatment without being hospitalised.

“The annual medical spend is estimated to be Rs 2 lakh crore. Of this, only Rs 60,000-70,000 crore is hospital expenditure. The remaining is towards diagnosis and medicines. The health-related insurance products do not address outside hospitalisation charges,” he said speaking at a FICCI health insurance seminar.

IRDA and FICCI, along with other stakeholders, have drafted guidelines which will cover non-medical expenses by insurance companies. They have also issued standards for insurance companies on critical illnesses.

This will give an insurer a certain lump sum amount based on the diagnosis of a certain disease irrespective of actual medical or non-medical expenses incurred. At present, there is no uniform structure on expenses that will be covered by the insurance companies.

Even within hospitalisation expenses, many charges are excluded such as elements of room charge, items payable on prescription, administrative or non-medical charges, said Dr Somil Nagpal, Special officer, Health Insurance, IRDA. This also creates conflicts between companies and customers.

Mr Narayan also observed that 90 per cent of the claims rejected are on the grounds of a pre-existing disease. “It does raise questions on the communication between the sales force and the policy holder,” said Mr Narayan.

In the fiscal ended March 31, 2009, the general insurance industry recorded a health insurance premium of Rs 6,625 crore. This is an increase of 30 per cent over the previous year. Despite this, insurance currently pays less than one-tenth of the country’s hospitalisation expenditure.

Link: Original Article

July 03, 2009

Rural postings to fetch doctors double pay

Doctors willing to work in India's most far flung and inaccessible areas may soon earn double of what their urban counterparts do in a decision borne out of the recognition that cash to the far flung areas.

In order to provide quality healthcare to people in isolated regionsunder the National Rural Health Mission, the health ministry has decided to identify "difficult, most difficult and inaccessible areas, particularly in hilly states, northeastern states and tribal areas" where primary health centres (PHCs) would be set up.

The ministry, through NRHM, will then make funds available for contractual appointments of doctors and paramedical staff and "provide significantly higher monetary incentives based on location of posting".

Even though PHCs are the first port of call for the sick in rural areas, the majority of them have no trained medical personnel.

Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "There has been a significant increase in attendance of out-patients and in-patient cases in PHCs and community health centres (CHCs) under the NRHM. But more needs to be done for remote parts of the country."

He added, "Because of lack of incentives from state governments, no doctor wants to work in the country's most backward areas. We will therefore identify the most isolated areas, pinpoint where the state can set up a PHC and then give them funds to hire doctors on contract."

On the ministry's earlier proposal about making a one-year stint in villages compulsory for all MBBS students, Azad said this could form part of a long-term solution plan being devised by the ministry.

According to an NRHM report earlier, nearly 8% PHCs don't have a doctor while nearly 39% were running without a lab technician and about 17.7% without a pharmacist. To compound the problem, PHCs in some states don't have adequate labour rooms and operation theatres.

The condition of CHCs, supposed to provide specialised medical care, is equally appalling. Out of the sanctioned posts, about 59.4% of surgeons, 45% of obstetricians and gynaecologists, 61.1% of physicians and 53.8% of paediatricians were found to be vacant. Moreover, there was a shortfall of 70.2% specialists at the CHCs.

Azad also promised setting up of a National Council for Human Resources in Health -- an overarching regulatory body that will look to enhance skilled medical personnel.

India is short of 6 lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and 2 lakh dental surgeons because of which it has a dismal patient-doctor ratio. For every 10,000 Indians, there is one doctor.

"One of the major bottlenecks in our efforts to improve the public healthcare system is the overwhelming shortage of specialist doctors and paramedical personnel. We are therefore formulating a scheme for strengthening and upgradation of state government medical colleges to increase post-graduate medical seats in departments where there is critical shortage like gynaecology, anaesthesia and paediatrics," Azad said, while announcing his 100-day agenda for the health sector.

Link: Original Article

Bill to prevent attacks on doctors in West Bengal

The West Bengal government wants to make attacks on doctors and medical staff a cognizable and non-bailable offence, attracting a maximum punishment of imprisonment for three years and a fine that may extend to Rs 50,000.


A Bill to this effect, called The West Bengal Medical Service Persons and Medicare Service Institutions (Prevention of Violence and Damage to Property) Bill, 2009, was introduced in the Assembly by health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra on Tuesday and sent to the subjects committee for scrutiny.

The legislation was planned in response to the concern of the Indian Medical Association over incidents of violence against medical practitioners. The government wanted to stop violence against doctors, nurses, medical students, nursing students and paramedical staff and damage to property in medical institutions.

By "medicare institution" the Bill meant government, municipal as well as private hospitals, as well as maternity homes.

The Bill as drawn up also incorporated the provision for payment of compensation for damage or loss caused to property in case of violence in hospitals. IMA had requested for legal protection against such violence.

Link: Original Article

Medical institutes seeking donation will have licence cancelled: Health Minister

Taking a strong stance against illegal donation or capitation fee being charged by private medical institutes for admission in its MBBS courses, the health ministry said institutes found guilty would be punished in the most severe manner.

Cautioning colleges against taking capitation fees, health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Wednesday said he would use extraordinary powers to cancel their licences if they were found guilty.

He said, "The era of touts who collect money on behalf of colleges and corrupt administration is over. Should I come to know of any medical college or its proprietor having paid money to get files cleared or get permission to increase seats, I will use extraordinary powers to cancel their licences."

Azad also called for surprise checks in colleges by the Medical Council of India to assess standards. "Random checking should become the order. If the institutes know when the team will visit them, they will have everything in place," he said.

A TOI-Times Now expose last month had caught on camera two private medical colleges in Chennai seeking capitation fee for admission to its MBBS courses. Such a fee has been explicitly banned by the Supreme Court.

TOI had earlier exposed how two members of MCI had strong links with the offending institutions.

Two senior officials of MCI -- president Ketan Desai and vice-president P C Kesavankutty Nayar -- are currently board members of Sri Ramachandra University, which demanded Rs 40 lakh from students seeking MBBS admission.


Link: Original Article

Virus dogs online PG medical exam in Tamil Nadu

The Directorate of Medical Education (DME) cancelled the online entrance examinations for super-specialty courses in medicine held at Vel Tech Engineering College near Avadi on Sunday following technical errors, including a computer virus attack. The dates for fresh examinations will be announced later, the DME said.

The selection committee had invited more than 500 students to write the DM and MCh entrance tests that went online for the first time. The committee attempted to prepare the students in advance by giving them the compact discs of the exam model explaining about the online test. “For many of us, the CD just did not open because of some virus,” a surgeon, who appeared for the exams, said.

On Sunday, trouble began as soon as students logged in at 10 am. “It said I had already taken the exam. I called for techinical assistance. After some struggle they helped me log in,” said another surgeon. By 11 am, the selection committee announced that the test was cancelled following a “virus attack”.

Link: Original Article

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