September 29, 2009

Homeopathy couple jailed over daughter's death

A husband and wife were jailed today for the manslaughter of their baby, who died after they chose to use homeopathic remedies rather than conventional medicine to treat her severe skin disorder.

Thomas Sam, 42,a lecturer in homeopathy, and his wife Manju, 37, of Sydney, were convicted in June after the death of their nine-month-old daughter Gloria from septicaemia and malnutrition in May 2002. The parents had faced a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. The New South Wales state supreme court justice, Peter Johnson, ordered Thomas Sam to serve at least six years in jail, with a maximum sentence of eight years, and Manju to serve at least four years in jail with a maximum of five years and four months.

Johnson said there was a "wide chasm" between the couple's approach and the action a reasonable parent would have taken. Thomas Sam's "arrogant approach" to his preference for homeopathy and Manju Sam's deference to her husband led to their daughter's death, he said.

Prosecutors said Thomas Sam continued to consult homeopaths and natural medicine practitioners after his daughter was diagnosed at four months old. Her health continued to deteriorate and her black hair turned white.

Gloria became malnourished by battles against infections that invaded her bloodstream through skin broken by rashes.

Her parents finally took her to a hospital and doctors gave her morphine and began treating an eye infection that had started to melt her corneas. She died three days later.

Link: Original Article

September 27, 2009

Free treatment: Private hospitals in New Delhi under the lens

After the High Court lashed out at Apollo Hospital for not treating poor patients for free which was a condition for the hospital being given land at a discounted rate Delhi government health department has suddenly woken up to the rampant violation of the clause by almost all private hospitals who were given such land.

It has now decided to post officials in all these hospitals who will not just monitor the status and utilization of these beds but also as instructed by the High Court inform patients in government hospitals about the option. At present, few needy patients ever go to these hospitals for fear of running up massive medical bills.

Apollo was on Tuesday pulled up for not treating 33% patients free of cost. With Apollo's bed strength it should ideally have 200 beds where everything including medicines are provided by the hospital. The hospital for getting 15 acres land free of cost and an additional Rs 16 crore from the government is also supposed to have 40% OPD patients free which the HC found is also being violated.

Health minister Kiran Walia said: "These hospitals have such an aura that poor patients are scared to go there. That is where these officials will come in. We will ask patients from government hospitals to meet designated officials in each hospital who will help them with their paperwork and see that they get their due.''

While Apollo's case is striking partly because of the huge numbers involved, one glance at the health department's records and it is clear that Apollo is not the only offender. It is clear that few of the 38-odd hospitals who were given land at concessional rates bother to inform the health department about the status of these free beds and as health department sources point out, the government's initiatives to get the information have not traditionally been very aggressive. This, despite the fact that the boards of all these hospitals have the chief secretary, finance secretary and health secretary as members.

As many as 16 hospitals including well-known names like Dharamshila Hospital and Research Centre, Jaipur Golden Hospital and Sunderlal Jain Charitable Hospital have not submitted details of the occupancy status of free beds.

Health department sources say there is usually a "happy understanding'' between hospitals and the government on free beds which being hospital's usually honour "requests'' from senior officials politicians etc and at times in their records show these patients as having been admitted under the free bed scheme. "This serves both sides and has been continuing all this while. In fact the case in which the ruling has come has been going on for many years now,'' explained an official.

Health department's latest records for the status of free beds shows in Dharamshila all 20 are vacant, in Flt Rajan Dhall Hospital (Fortis) and Rockland, each of their 11 free beds are vacant, in Escorts Heart Institute and Research Centre 21 of 26 beds are vacant and in Jaipur Golden, all 26 free beds are vacant. Venu Eye Institute, however, is a welcome deviation with 63 free patients admitted against its quota of 42 beds.

"One thing that Apollo really stood out in was that they made completely different setups for free beds where there was not enough medical care. This no other hospital did,'' said Walia who says it was her initiative after taking charge of the health department that brought Apollo to book. The PIL on which Tuesday's verdict came was filed by NGO Social Jurist in the mid-nineties.

Link: Original Article

Not just fatigue - stressed doctors mess up, too

Want to know if a doctor-in-training is stressed out or tired and about to make a big mistake? Just ask.

A study published on Tuesday finds that resident doctors know when they are exhausted, upset or overwhelmed and when they are, they are far more likely to admit they made an error.

What they are admitting is that sleepiness is not the only factor. Above and beyond that is general distress and mental fatigue, researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"While fatigue is important, there is this whole domain of distress beyond fatigue that also demands attention," Dr. Colin West of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who led the study, said in a telephone interview.

The findings may help point to ways to better reduce the burdens on resident doctors, known in some countries as junior doctors, and in turn prevent mistakes.

"I think this is going to have an impact on healthcare reform," West said. "We need (to put) resources into training and medicine to control work hours and maintain physician well-being."

The U.S. Institute of Medicine reported in 1999 that between 48,000 and 98,000 Americans die each year from preventable medical errors ranging from drug overdoses to infections caught in the hospital.

And doctors, unions and other experts have been clamoring to cut the hours worked by residents, who once routinely put in 100 to 120 hour work-weeks and who still are required to work at least 80 hours a week at most training hospitals.

West and colleagues surveyed 356 residents at 163 medical schools globally.

They found that 39 percent reported making at least one major medical error during the study period, and these doctors were also more likely to say they were sleepy, fatigued or stressed.

"What we have shown in these data is that fatigue is important ... but it's only part of the issue and previous studies have not paid much attention to the distress factors," West said.

"Over the course of their training and the course of their career everyone has made a major error. Everyone tries to be perfect but no one is."

He said merely limiting work hours may not be enough.

Teaching hospitals across the United States have moved to limit residents' work weeks to 80 hours to reduce fatigue-related errors. The Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, California, estimates this could cost $171 million to $487 million a year, depending on whether additional residents are hired or substitute providers are brought in.

"Targeting work hours may not be enough," West said.

Link: Original Article

Medicos with foreign degrees must undergo screening before practice in India: Supreme Court

In a ruling that would affect Indian students pursuing medical courses abroad, the Supreme Court has ruled such students have to compulsorily undergo a "screening test" before taking up their medical practice in India.

"The scope of Section 13(4A) is quite clear and covers all foreign medical institutions falling within the ambit of Sections 12 and 13 of the Act.

"On a close and careful reading, provisions of the Amending Act of 2001 with the Eligibility Requirement Regulations and Screening Test Regulation, both of 2002, it becomes at once clear that the MCI is obliged to stipulate the screening test in the case of all those candidates who obtained medical qualification from medical institutions outside India," a three-judge bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, P Sathasivam and J M Panchal said.

The apex court made the remarks in a judgement interpreting Sections 12 and 13 of the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act stipulating students pursuing medical courses under "reciprocal" programme with foreign medical college/ universities to mandatorily undergo "screening test" in India before commencing their practice.

Link: Original Article

MCI aims to bring back 5,000 NRI docs in 5 yrs from US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand

Amendments in the Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations will open the floodgates for hundreds of non-resident Indian (NRI) doctors to come back to their roots. MCI chairman Dr Ketan Desai says the council has eased the cross-over rules and has set a target of bringing back 5,000 Indian doctors, including teachers, settled in US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

MCI has removed the main bottleneck by recognising the postgraduation and other degrees of these specific countries where health facilities are supposedly best in the world and the education was done in English medium. They have the choice of coming back to teach in a private or government college as well as work in a private or government hospital. Also, they can set up their own medical colleges and hospitals. Indian doctors in these countries are the richest segment even among NRIs.

While some of them may be wanting to come back because of recession, there are others who have made plenty of money and are not looking to come back to India to make more money. "There is a large segment who wants to serve their homeland,'' said Dr Desai, who is based in Ahmedabad.

Apart from accepting foreign degrees, the MCI has made special provision so that foreign experience is also counted. For example, if there is a professor of medicine in a US university, with the required number of years of experience to become one in India, he can be hired as a professor by any medical college in India. This will bring about a huge change not only in the cities but also in the countryside, if the doctors returning home really go deeper into their roots. Besides, MCI also sees the possibility of groups of NRI doctors coming back and pooling in their resources to build hospitals and medical colleges.

"This exercise will infuse competition in the private sector and be good for the overall health infrastructure in the long run. Imagine if we have two professors in cardiac surgery coming back to Ahmedabad, which has only two or three cardiac surgeons right now, so many more cardiac surgeons will be readied in the next ten years,'', the MCI chief said.

For marketing the concept, MCI has teamed up with the Indian Medical Association, Association of American Physicians of India and British Association of Physicians of Indian Origin to host an event in New Delhi on January 2-4.

Link: Original Article

Screening test must for Nepal MBBS

The Supreme Court has upheld a screening test that Indians with MBBS degrees from two Nepal medical colleges have to take before they can practise in this country.

Graduates from Manipal College of Medical Science, Pokhara, and Universal College of Medical Sciences, Bhaiarahawa, will have to sit for the screening test conducted by the Medical Council of India (MCI), the court said.

In the past, Indian students with MBBS degrees from the former Soviet republics, other East European nations and China had to sit the screening test. However, since March 15, 2002, all Indians who have graduated from any foreign medical institution have had to take the screening test unless their institute was specifically exempt.

The court was dealing with the petition of Yash Ahuja, a graduate from Manipal College, Pokhara, who claimed his institution had this exemption when he studied there. The MCI had withdrawn recognition to the two Nepal colleges only in 2008.

Ahuja had challenged a Delhi High Court order of 2008 that rejected his plea to direct the MCI to immediately grant registration to students who had graduated from these two Nepal colleges.

The petitioner said that since Manipal College was recognised by the MCI (when he studied there), the council could not insist on another screening test. Under MCI rules, the council can recognise any foreign degree on a reciprocal basis.

The MCI had recognised Manipal College on condition that the college would not admit more than 100 students a year. On the request of the Indian health ministry, the MCI inspected the college in 2000 and evaluated it.

On the basis of its report, the Indian health ministry issued a notification in 2001 recognising the MBBS degree granted by Kathmandu University to Manipal College students in or after July 1999. However, the MCI Act was amended in 2001 to provide for a screening test for all Indians who graduate in medicine from abroad.

The reason was that a large number of private agencies sponsored Indian students for medical studies overseas for commercial gain. Such students included many who did not meet the minimum requirements for admission to medical courses in India.

The screening test was meant to satisfy the MCI that these students had adequate skills and knowledge to practise in India.

In January 2007, the Indian government asked the MCI to again inspect Nepal institutions that taught the MBBS course and reassess the facilities available there.

An inspection team went to Pokhara but was initially turned away. The team later carried out the inspection despite protests by the college.

In 2008, based on the inspection report, the MCI withdrew the recognition granted to Manipal College and Universal College.

Students from these colleges who had been issued provisional registration and had started their internship with medical colleges recognised by the MCI were told they would be denied permanent registration if they did not clear the screening test.

They then moved Delhi High Court but failed to stall the new MCI directive. Doctors with Indian degrees have to undergo similar screening tests in the UK and the US.

Link: Original Article

Court suggests single exam for MBBS, States told to offer 15% medical seats to Centre

The Supreme Court of India has suggested formulation of a single entrance examination for MBBS admissions as against the current system of separate exams for Centre and respective state medical colleges.


The Supreme Court has directed state governments to offer 15% seats of medical colleges to the Centre and conduct an ‘extended round of counselling’ to fill seats as per merit. The directive comes in the wake of a petition filed with the apex court stating that some medical colleges in J&K, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat had refused to offer seats for Centre’s quota of 15% as per Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines.

The petition filed in August 2009 said the states ‘deliberately’ delay counselling and seats are filled through ‘back-door entries’, a health ministry official said.

The move is likely to reduce corruption in the system and produce meritorious medical professionals in the country.

The Supreme Court, in its directive, has also suggested to conduct a single exam for MBBS as against the current system of separate exams for Centre and tests for respective state medical colleges.

“As per the Supreme Court’s direction, states will have to offer 15% of the total seats (for undergraduates) through the Centre. The vacant seats will have to be filled against the candidates who have qualified for the all India medical tests,” ADN Rao, the counsel for a candidate, who was denied the seat despite qualifying for the all India medical examination, said.

The court also directed the heads of various medical colleges across the country to intimate the director general of health services (DGHS) about the existing vacancies and help them filled by September 27, counsel Rao said.
However, the Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said that offering seats (by the states) for Centre’s quota is ‘voluntary’.

According to the official, total number of seats under Centres’ 15% quota were supposed to be 2,205 (1,972 for MBBS and 233 for BDS) for the academic year 2009. Due to delay on part of the states, there were 339 unalloted seats for MBBS courses, while 168 BDS seats were not allotted after the first round of counselling.

“The directive would not only help fill vacant seats with deserving candidates but also sends a mandate to medical colleges that refuse to adhere to MCI guidelines of offering 15% seats to the Centre,” the official added.

Link: Original Article

MCI all set to double PG Seats in the country!

The changes in Medical Council of India (MCI) regulations promise to address the acute shortage of specialist doctors in the country. MCI has revised the student-teacher ratio in postgraduate (PG) courses from 1:1 to 2:1,meaning two students will now be placed under one PG professor.

The rule is not applicable for associate professor and assistant professor. The decision to increase the student-teacher ratio will create nearly 4,000 PG seats from 2010-11 in government colleges. The process would be thrown open for 3000 more seats in private colleges from 2011-12, Ahmedabad-based MCI president Dr Ketan Desai said.

Under the changed regulations, state governments across the country have been told by MCI to furnish a list of professors in government medical colleges by September end so that the seats can be increased from the next academic year. For private colleges, which can generate 3000 additional seats, the applications will be scrutinized more closely.

When the change really comes, it would drastically reduce the premium charged by private medical colleges which hovers in the range of Rs 40 lakh to Rs 1 crore — normally paid by doctors with a flourishing practice who want to pass on the business to their children. The MCI has also decided to make Emergency Medicine part of the medical curriculum. India has one of the highest rates of accident deaths in the world. E

very doctor should be trained in trauma care, said Dr Desai. New and emerging disciplines have been included in the schedule. Post-graduate courses in these disciplines will be started in select government medical colleges from 2010. “These super-speciality courses will help provide cutting-edge medicine. Any recognized medical college is eligible to start such courses. Reasonable relaxation will be given to the colleges starting courses in these emerging disciplines as teachers in these specialities will be available only after a while,” said Dr Desai.

Link: Original Article

September 19, 2009

Jamir calls for world-class medical colleges in country

Despite being one of the largest producers of doctors in the world, the country faces a shortage of trained medicos and nurses, Maharashtra Governor said today.

"India produces the largest number of doctors, nurses and medical technicians in the world. However, we still have a shortage of trained doctors and nurses in our country because of a huge population base of over one billion," S C Jamir said after inaugurating Children's Heart Centre of the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital here.

Quoting the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Jamir said India is short by about six lakh doctors and two lakh dental surgeons.

"The Planning Commission has projected a shortage of one million nurses in the country over the next five years. This issue is to be addressed by planners and medical institutions," he said.

Link: Original Article

Doctors who work in rural areas to get extra money: Azad

In a far-reaching move to improve healthcare services in rural India, doctors who opt to work in rural areas will be compensated with extra money and 'weightage' points that will help them when they apply for higher studies, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad announced on Thursday.


"The only way to attract the attention of doctors to work in difficult, most difficult and inaccessible areas is through incentives. We have requested the states to give us the list under the above categories. We can provide extra money as extra incentive," Azad told reporters.

He said 22 states has sent their list and they would work it out within this month. "Assam has already done it,"said Azad while listing out the achievements of his ministry in the past 100 days.

The northeastern state is the first state in the country to have carried out rural postings by appointing 768 doctors. The doctors will get a monthly salary of Rs 25,000, besides free accommodation in their area of posting.

"These arrangements are expected to substantially improve the morale of health service providers who work in remote and inaccessible areas in the country. This would go a long way in ensuring availability of quality health services on equitable and affordable basis in remote parts of the country," Azad told reporters.

He also said that "additional weightage" would be given in the post graduate examination at the rate of 10 percent for each year of rural service. "It will be subject to a maximum of 30 percent extra weightage for three years of rural service."

He said this service will have to be rendered after the internship period only. "This service will not only help the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), but also help the MBBS doctors in accumulating extra weightage points for further studies," he added.

As India faces acute shortage of doctors and paramedics, the government now plans to set up more medical colleges.

Apart from allowing Public Private Partnership for upgrading district hospitals to medical colleges in northeastern states, in hilly terrain and those states where medical colleges are fewer, the rules regarding land requirement have also been relaxed.

According to a Planning Commission report, India faces a shortage of about 600,000 doctors, one million nurses, 200,000 dental surgeons and a large number of paramedical staff.

Keeping in mind the shortage of medical specialists, the ministry also plans to increase the seats for post graduation.

"It is expected that, without substantive additional resource and infrastructure requirement, the number of Post Graduate specialists would dramatically increase by almost 5,000 from the existing 13,000 to 18,000 within a short period of time," he said.

The ministry plans to open new Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) and General Nurse Midwives (GNMs) schools, especially in backward and unserved districts.

Azad said the government is committed to safeguard the credibility of Indian pharmaceutical products and for this they have amended the Drugs and Cosmetics Act.

Under the act, the maximum penalty has been raised to life imprisonment and fine of Rs 10 lakh or three times the value of confiscated goods (whichever is more).

"India has a global presence in drugs and pharmaceuticals and ranks 4th in volumes and 14th in value in the world. India produces drugs and pharmaceuticals to the tune of Rs 85,000 crore, of which it exports are worth Rs 35,000 crore," he said.

He said the ministry is planning to start annual surveys that will give yearly progress on the various health parameters like Infant Mortality Rate (IMR), Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) and Total Fertility Ratio (TFR).

"The prime minister had desired this annual health surveys," he said, adding that it will be conducted in 284 districts of nine states by the Registrar General of India (RRI). "We have sanctioned 109 posts and Rs 335 crore for the RRI to take up the survey during the period 2009-2012," he added.

Link: Original Article

September 03, 2009

MCI knives out for health ministry

In an unprecedented move, the Medical Council of India (MCI) has put in writing several accusations against the Union ministry of health
for trampling on its autonomy and granting permission to start medical colleges despite the council recommending otherwise. Incidentally, the government is planning to scrap this autonomous body which was set up in 1956 with a view to drawing a road map for medical education.

In its 60-page report, the MCI notes that "on several occasions" its decision to withhold permission, based on "deficiencies of teaching faculty, clinical material, infrastructure etc" have been overruled by the ministry "without reason". It is this "erosion of autonomy", it avers, that has caused more "damage to medical education" in the country.

When questioned on the charges, former health minister Anbumani Ramadoss claimed that the MCI had become "a law unto itself", and that he had received several complaints of corruption against it. "MCI often refuses to carry out inspections when directed by the ministry," he said. "We were hence forced to set up our own inspection team made up of senior doctors who were sent to colleges and then asked to send their observations to the ministry."

Link: Original Article

Medical council move draws mixed response

The Union health ministry's decision to form a single council for medical education in the country has drawn a mixed response from the
medical fraternity. Some felt that the Medical Council of India (MCI) was doing a fair job, while others said the Union ministry's decision should not be politically motivated.

Welcoming the decision, B J medical college dean Arun Jamkar said, "It will help in running medical education uniformly as all branches will be controlled by one body. The problem at present is that there's tremendous crunch for support staff. I believe that with a single council being formed, equal attention will be given to various courses".

"But I also feel that there should be absolutely no politics involved in the decision. Besides, the MCI should be given some role to play in the council. I do not agree scrapping of the MCI totally," he added.

Bharati Vidyapeeth medical college principal V A Saoji said, "It is premature to judge the decision. However, the council will have limited members and if these members are supposed to take decisions regarding all branches of medical education, then it is not fair as they will not have expertise in all fields. Moreover, there's no need to scrap the MCI as it is doing a reasonable job." Saoji, too, felt that the proposed council should not have a political hand in it. "If that happens, then I don't think things will get any better. Some sections in society are not happy with the functioning of the MCI, but there is no guarantee that the new council will be better."

According to the principal of D Y Patil Pratishthan's medical college, Pimpri, Amarjeet Singh, "It is an unimaginable task for one council to govern six to seven medical branches across the country. Take the example of the dental regulatory body, which is unable to control just the dental education. I fail to understand why a single council is being formed in such a scenario."

Maharashtra institute of medical education and research principal Shubhada Javadekar said, "At present, there is monopoly of the MCI anyway. It's partial to certain colleges and does not impose rules and regulations uniformly. I only feel that the new entity should not favour a particular state or college and should be transparent in its working."

A task force of the Union health ministry has decided to scrap all regulatory bodies, including the MCI, Dental Council of India, Pharmacy Council and the Nursing Council. There will instead be a single regulatory body the National Council for Human Resources in Health which will oversee the seven departments related to medicine. The move now awaits a formal government notification.

Link: Original Article

H1N1–The Road Ahead

With a record 220 cases in just one day, H1N1 flu has captured the imagination of many in the country. Pune authorities have declared it a ‘community spread’ leading to shutting-down of most schools and colleges while Mumbai is still wondering whether to follow suit. There are talks of Government planning new guidelines, but a nagging feeling of lagging one step behind when it comes to taking precautionary measures will soon haunt us. The pandemic had been tugging at our sleeves for long, craving for attention but it is only after the final jolt of the first death in Pune on August 4, 2009 that our health ministry geared up for some serious action.

As per the CDS (The Centre for Development Studies) statistics, only 2% of the flu patients require admissions. As of 7th August, of 6506 patients admitted 436 died with a mortality of 6.7% all over the world and it is still rising. Imagining the worst situation in Delhi, 100% people getting affected by swine flu, with a population of 138 crores, 2.76 lakh people may require admissions. Delhi has a total bed capacity of 41,629 only as on 31st March 2008 with eighty percent beds in the private sector. Clearly we can be seen scrambling for medical attention when such emergencies break out.

“If we start investigating every case of H1N1 virus, I think the government facility will not be able to cope with the rush,” said Dharam Prakash, the Indian Medical Association’s secretary general. So, is it that we being a developing country will face hurdles in developing and facilitating more testing centres? On the availability of proper infrastructure for testing

and the type of testing for H1N1 Swine Flu.

Sunil Lal Sr. Research Scientist, ICGEB (The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology) says “Basically a PCR test (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test is conducted for testing H1N1 patients PCR amplifies specific sequences of the DNA. It takes two hours or less to conduct the test. It should be ensured that the primer used in the test is updated and the right primer is used.”

If all we needed was a clean PCR set-up room and the use of a good primer, which comes along with the WHO test kit, where is the problem? Maybe it is the numbers that generate the anxiety. But that is not the only threat.

In Delhi in the year 2008, as per economic survey, total deaths were 1,00,974. Out of which heart diseases caused 19,362 deaths. With most of medical staff driven towards swine flu, illnesses like cancer, pneumonia, anemia, measles, meningitis, cholera who claim many lives annually might be received with less seriousness. Dr KK Aggarwal President Heart Care Foundation of India says, ‘All flu are same as far as developing complications are concerned and need same consideration for treatment. In complicated flu whether swine or human there is no difference in the line of treatment and both will need tamiflu, which is currently the drug of choice in view of the sensitivity patterns.”

H1N1 is certainly not getting undeserved attention. It has taken 1462 lives worldwide and claiming more every day, but that is not to say that it is the biggest medical tragedy man ever witnessed, only one of the fastest spreading. At a time when the flu has played spoil sport for the economy, can we really afford it? Ranjana Kumari, teacher says, “I have two kids in a joint family. I cannot support them if made to leave my job and sit back if infected. I t is not just the fear of being infected or developing any medical infirmity that dreads us, we are middle class people, who can’t afford to sit back”. In fact this is not a concern that restricts itself to our country, at a time when countries are stashing more funds to curb economic recession and global terrorism, developing proper checking mechanisms, immunization and research for flu is a tough challenge. “These are countries with vulnerable populations and fragile health-care systems,” said Nikki Shindo, acting head of the WHO’s influenza program.

The Flu patient must be isolated for a good seven days under medical supervision until the symptoms subside, any middle income family cannot forfeit one weeks salary to this Flu. This is why it had become imminent for us to take immediate precautionary measures. The Washington Post reporter Bob Stein has expressed concerns over the flu reaching less prosperous, less prepared countries, he laments, “Despite well-run clinics for the wealthy, many of India’s government health services are overcrowded, understaffed, chaotic and antiquated”.

Past month has seen Indian doctors and health officials prepare for the sharp increase in the H1N1 swine flu cases, when the world is preparing for a new round of flu in Northern Hemisphere this winter. The Washington Post report claims, “The virus could cause nothing more than a typical flu season for the Northern Hemisphere this winter. But many experts suspect the second wave could be more severe than an average flu season, which hospitalizes an estimated 200,000 Americans and contributes to 36,000 deaths. Because the virus is new, most people are not immune to it.”

“The virus is still around and ready to explode,” said William Schaffner, an influenza expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. We could be looking at a very big economic mess but what the future holds still eludes us. We can only set our house in order and be fully armed.

Link: Original Article

Maharashtra set to get 700 more medical seats

An initiative taken by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) is likely to add 700 seats to government medical colleges in Maharashtra from the June 2010 academic year.

A senior medical education department official on Saturday confirmed the proposal, saying a high-level team of experts led by Chandrashekhar Shetty, former vice-chancellor of the Rajiv Gandhi Health Sciences University, Karnataka, would be going on an official tour to study the present status of infrastructure in government-run medical colleges. “We feel that if the existing infrastructure is put to effective use, we can have 50 additional seats in each of the 14 government-run medical colleges in Maharashtra,’’ the official said.

The PMO’s view is that adding 50 seats to an existing medical college is much more cost-effective than opening a new one. “The first option will require an additional staff of only 76, while a new college with an intake capacity of 50 would require a staff of nearly 200,’’ said the official. “It is more pragmatic to utilise the existing infrastructure optimally.’’

Apart from increasing seats, the PMO also proposes to set up new medical colleges with an intake capacity of 50 to 100, which will be attached to district hospitals. “The primary objective is to generate adequate manpower in the field of medical education and public health,’’ the official said.

Interestingly, it has been proposed to run the new medical colleges in shifts unlike the current ones. “By and large, our work is over by 2 pm and for the rest of the day infrastructure worth crores of rupees lies idle. We feel that clinical infrastructure should be utilised effectively, and thus we should have a second shift,’’ the official said.

A former dean said that in view of the drastic changes recommended by the PMO, the Medical Council Act would have to be amended suitably. “Right now, rules for increasing the intake capacity will have to be amended,’’ he said. “But if the PMO’s proposal is implemented in letter and spirit, it will be a major relief for deserving students, who can hope to get admission without paying a donation or capitation fees. All private medical colleges claim that they don’t take donations or capitation fees, but everyone knows that in most private colleges, admission is almost impossible if you don’t grease palms."

Link: Original Article

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