December 31, 2009

2009 Health Highlights: Swine flu, cancer, AIDS

The big health story of 2009 was swine flu. The H1N1 virus claimed thousands of lives. Also making headlines was a much-hyped AIDS vaccine that failed. Meanwhile, the cracking of the cancer code was perhaps the only silver lining on 2009. Take a look at the health highlights of the year gone by. according to CNN-IBN

April 2009: This was the month the new H1N1 virus was detected in Mexico. It rapidly spread across the world and the World Health Organisation declared a pandemic within months. By the end of the year, more than 16,000 people had died and 1.5 million people had caught the flu. A vaccine has proved effective and over 65 million doses of vaccine have been administered in more than 20 countries, though India will only see a vaccine by spring 2010.

September 2009: 2009 offered false hope. In September, it seemed like a vaccine against HIV/AIDS was a real possibility. Researchers from the US military and the Thai government said a new combination of vaccines could cut the risk of infection by almost a third. But the second and third analysis of the trial showed disappointing results. The vaccine appears only 26 per cent effective, below the threshold of statistical significance, given a modestly successful trial in Thailand.

December 2009: The best health news came in December. Scientists in the UK have cracked the cancer code - the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers, skin and lung cancer. For the first time scientists can see every single mutation, which could could soon herald blood tests that detect tumours far earlier. Work is now beginning to map at least 50 more cancer genomes and India is one of 10 countries involved in studying cancer of the mouth.

Link: Original Article

December 28, 2009

Grace marks for doctors for rural clinics

Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that his ministry has come out with certain changes in the MCI regulations, with an aim to provide better healthcare services to the rural population.

He was speaking at the inauguration of the modernised MS Ramaiah Medical Teaching Hospital on Friday.

As per the new guidelines, any MBBS doctor serving in rural area either on ad hoc or contractual basis for one year, would get 10 per cent marks in national entrance examination.
Similarly, if he or she spends two years, he or she will get 20 per cent marks. For spending three years, 30 per cent marks would be allocated in the national entrance examination.

The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was suffering because of doctors did not want to work in primary healthcare centres (PHCs) or hospitals in rural areas due to the inadequate working facilities, Azad said. The Minister maintained that it was difficult to push the doctors to work at the PHCs.

South on top “There are 300 medical education institutes in the country, of which 50 per cent are in the private sector and 80 per cent of the institutes are situated in the southern part of the country.

Consequently, the southern states are far better compared to other areas in providing healthcare services,” he said.

The Minister also announced concessions offered to start more private medical institutes.
“For the northern and hilly states, the establishment of a institute is now allowed on 20 acres of land, instead of the stipulated 25 acres,” the Minister said.
He said quality education and proper human resource management would boost medical tourism in the country.

Responding to a query on new appointment to the post of director at NIMHANS as the term of the current director was coming to an end on January 31 next year, the Health Minister said that a search committee would be set up for the appointment of the right candidate, as the number of candidates applying for the post was large. Bangalore, December 25 UNION Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that his ministry has come out with certain changes in the MCI regulations, with an aim to provide better healthcare services to the rural population.
He was speaking at the inauguration of the modernised MS Ramaiah Medical Teaching Hospital on Friday.

As per the new guidelines, any MBBS doctor serving in rural area either on ad hoc or contractual basis for one year, would get 10 per cent marks in national entrance examination.
Similarly, if he or she spends two years, he or she will get 20 per cent marks. For spending three years, 30 per cent marks would be allocated in the national entrance examination.
The National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) was suffering because of doctors did not want to work in primary healthcare centres (PHCs) or hospitals in rural areas due to the inadequate working facilities, Azad said. The Minister maintained that it was difficult to push the doctors to work at the PHCs.

The Minister also announced concessions offered to start more private medical institutes.
“For the northern and hilly states, the establishment of a institute is now allowed on 20 acres of land, instead of the stipulated 25 acres,” the Minister said.
He said quality education and proper human resource management would boost medical tourism in the country.

H1N1 vaccine by March-end
The Health Minister said that the clinical trials for H1N1 vaccines were still going on. The clinical trials on animal and human beings would be over by January and the vaccines will be launched by either end of March or beginning of April next year. The Health Minister said that the clinical trials for H1N1 vaccines were still going on. The clinical trials on animal and human beings would be over by January and the vaccines will be launched by either end of March or beginning of April next year.

Link: Original Article

Medical sector reforms on the cards - Health Minister

The Union Health Ministry has come up with a wave of changes for the Medical sector to encourage the participation of private players in the field.

The ministry, in order to cope up with the shortage of doctors in the rural areas has decided to create another cadre of medicos who will be assigned duties exclusively in the villages and rural areas.

Besides announcing the incentives, the ministry has also amended an Act of the Medical Council of India (MCI) to facilitate opening of medical colleges and institutes in the rural areas of the country.

The Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, while addressing a function after laying the foundation stone of a hospital here recently announced that his ministry has decided to introduce a four-year course for doctors to create another cadre of medicos.

"The proposed new cadre would although be below the MBBS degree but it will be recognized by the Medical Council of India (MCI). It is a three-year academic course and a year's house job. The syllabus has already been drafted by the MCI and has been dispatched to different states for approval," he added.

The final decision now resides with the state governments who have to recognize the course.

Expecting a revolutionary change in the health sector, Azad said that, "It is mandatory for all doctors, trained in the four-year course, to serve only in the rural areas. Urban areas are not their field of work once they are a part of this programme."

He further added that apart from this new cadre, MBBS doctors would also be deployed in the rural areas.

To rope in private players in the health sector, Azad said that the pressure on the government institutes would ease due to the opening of private hospitals.

The Health Ministry had amended the existing Act of the MCI to simplify the procedure of opening medical colleges in the underdeveloped and backward areas

"Zones are allocated by the Health and Medical Education Ministry divided into three parts and special attention will be given to those areas which lack basic health facilities. Various concessions have been already announced by the ministry," he said.

With new concessions every year, 4000 specialist doctors and a similar number of super-specialist doctors would pass out from different medical colleges.

Azad further informed that his ministry had given sanction to open 19 medical institutes on a par with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and 250 nursing colleges all over the country to cope up with the doctors and paramedical staff crunch.

"On an average, 20,000 candidates would pass out as qualified nurses every year from these colleges", he hoped.

Link: Original Article

IRDA allows products combining life and health insurance

The Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority (IRDA) allowed a new product class Health plus Life Combi Products for promoting the combined products of pure term life insurance offered by life insurance companies along with standalone health insurance products offered by non-life insurance companies under the single product umbrella.

IRDA said the proposed product class enhances the penetration of personal lines of insurance business with a wider product choice to policyholders. While the IRDA adopts a business facilitative approach, it is expected that all insurance companies will put in place prudent market conduct practices and operational procedures for protecting the interests of policyholders.

The ‘Combi Products’ may be promoted by all life Insurance and non-life insurance companies, Irda said. However, these guidelines do not apply to micro insurance products which are governed by IRDA (Micro Insurance) Regulations, 2005. Also the combi products are not allowed through ‘bank referral’ arrangements.

The insurers are expected to offer the best covers as an attractive proposition for the policyholders. The underwriting aspects, premium collection issues and also other policy service related issues of the ‘Combi Products’ under reference require suitable IT support at the offices of both the insurers. Hence, an advanced technology support is an essential pre-requisite to support the service of the ‘Combi Product class’.

The premium components of both risks are to be separately identifiable and disclosed to the policyholders at both pre-sale stage and post-sale stage.

The proposed productis expected to help policy holders choose an integrated product under a single roof without shopping around the market for two different insurance coverages from two different insurers.

Link: Original Article

December 23, 2009

Union Health Minister says steps are being taken to improve standard of medical education

Lok Sabha

To improve the quality of medical education, focus has been given to upgrading the skills of medical teachers, increase in post graduate courses/seats, revision of curriculum, introduction of new medical courses and revision of the norms of infrastructure etc. While these amendments have taken effect, the actual implementation is expected to commence from the next academic session. Some of the important amendments made in the MCI Regulations are as under:-

i) The ratio of post graduate medical teacher to the student has been relaxed from 1:1 to 1:2.

ii) Research publications in indexed/National Journals have been made compulsory for promotion to the post of Professor/Associate Professor.

iii) Permitted colleges which are not yet fully recognized are allowed to offer postgraduate courses in the subjects of preclinical and paraclincial Departments of Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Microbiology, forensic Medicine & Community Medicine without waiting for full recognition.

iv) The teaching experience required for the post of Professor/Associate Professor has been reduced by one year in the respective feeder cadres.

v) Emergency Medicine has been incorporated in the medical curriculum so that the medical students are trained to tackle medical emergencies.

vi) Basic management skills in the area of human resources, materials and resource management related to health care delivery, General and hospital management, principal inventory skills and counseling have been included in the curriculum.

vii) A village attachment of atleast one week to understand issues of community health alongwith exposure to village health centres, ASHA, Sub Centres have also been included in the curriculum.

viii) The requirement of infrastructure like institution block, library, auditorium, examination hall, lecture theatres, etc. has been rationalized for optimal use, and

ix) Laboratories in different departments have been pooled to have common laboratories which can be used by all the departments for better utilization of the equipment and space and to reduce capital expenditure,

2. In addition, to facilitate expansion of medical education to the unserved and underserved areas of the country, amendments have been made in the Medical Council of India (MCI) Regulations, some of which are as follows:-

(a) For opening of new medical colleges, land requirements have been rationalized across the country and they have been further liberalized in the case of notified tribal areas, underserved/unserved areas and hill areas. In respect of these areas, land need not be unitary piece but can be in two pieces of land,

(b) In respect of North-East and Hill States, the requirement of bed strength in the teaching hospital has been liberalized, and

(c) Staff and infrastructural requirements have also been rationalized etc.

3. The President of India in her address to the Joint Session of Parliament on 4th June, 2009, announced the Government’s intention to set up a National Council of Human Resources in Health (NCHRH) as an overarching regulatory body for health sector to reform the current framework and enhance supply of skilled personnel. Consequently, a Task Force under the Chairmanship of Union Secretary (Health & Family Welfare) was constituted to deliberate upon the issue of setting up of the proposed National Council. The Task Force submitted its report on 31st July, 2009. The report alongwith the draft bill for creation of NCHRH has been sent to the State Governments seeking their views and posted on the Ministry’s website for inviting comments from the general public. It is envisaged that the proposed National Council, when constituted, will deal with various needs of medical education in the country.

This information was given by Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad Minister Union Minister for Health & Family Welfare in a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha today.

Link: Original Article

December 19, 2009

West Bengal passes controversial 3 year Rural Diploma MBBS Health bill

The West Bengal government on Wednesday passed the controversial Rural Health Regulatory Authority Bill 2009 in the state assembly by majority vote.

In doing so, the state government created a precedence in the sense that it over-ruled thereby the collective decision that was taken by the Left Front to send the bill to the assembly select committee in view of the differences that existed over various tenets of the bill among the Opposition.

The government’s move resulted in an immediate walkout by the Trinamool Congress and Congress.

The Bill introduces a 3-year diploma course on medical science and the apparent objective is to deploy these diploma holders in various parts of rural Bengal to meet the acute shortage there in terms of qualified medical practitioners.

The government’s move, good or bad, will undoubtedly lead to tremendous opposition from the leading Opposition parties as well as Left Front allies at this juncture when the state is going through one election after another and practically losing them all.

In early 1980s, the then CPIM state secretary Promode Dasgupta had mooted the idea of creating "barefoot doctors" to deploy them in rural Bengal, but had to relent to the huge opposition from the medical fraternity, including the Indian Medical Association (IMA). At the same time, it is not unknown either that during the raj days, a category of medical practitioners was created who were known as Licentiate Medical Practitioners. Sometimes jokingly referred to as "half-doctors", these practitioners did not go through the rigours of the Bachelor of Medicine (MB) course, but could practice privately under certain conditions. The system was abolished in 1946.

"I don’t understand why Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is trying to follow the Promode Dasgupta formula which was rejected by the medical fraternity as well," said Partha Chatterjee, the opposition leader in the state Assembly. Congress leader Manas Bhunia, who is himself an MBBS doctor resented the fact that two categories of medical practioners were being created, the fully-qualified for the cities and the half-qualified for rural Bengal.

"The sole intention of the government behind framing the bill is to tide over the manpower crisis in the rural health care system. MBBS doctors often refuse to go to the villages and stay there. We want to send these diploma-holder to villages to treat people there," state health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra argued. Mishra told newsmen he was unaware of the Front’s earlier decision, although he is a central committee member of the CPIM.

Left partners were aghast. Ashok Ghosh of the Forward Bloc, CPI’s Manju Majumdar and RSP’s Manoj Bhattacharjee all said they couldn’t figure out how this faux pas had happened. All of them were hugely surprised at the passing of the bill and said they would talk to the Left Front chairman Biman Bose. The CPIM’s state secretariat will take up the issue at a meeting on Thursday.

Link: Original Article

No plans to privatise AIIMS: Health Minister

Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on Friday that the government has no plans to privatise the All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha, Azad said: "There is no question of privatisation of AIIMS as it is the only premier institute that caters to poor people."

Apprehensions of AIIMS' privatisation were raised after the S. Valiathan Committee recommended that recruitment to Class C and D level posts in the institute should be done through reputed professional agencies.

The committee was set up to look for better management and functioning processes for the top medical institute of the country.

Link: Original Article

December 13, 2009

CET for medical PG: Decide in a month Gujarat HC tells govt

The Gujarat High Court has given a month's time to the state government to take a decision in the matter concerning holding a common entrance test (CET) for state quota in all institutions offering postgraduate medical degree courses from the next academic year.

Acting on second public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Parents Association for Medical, Dental and Paramedical, a division bench comprising Justice MS Shah and Justice AS Dave has asked the state government to act fast. The bench asked the government to decide in one month if it would hold a CET for admission to all state colleges' PG medical courses.

In addition, this time the high court has, in specific words, warned the government that it would face contempt proceedings in the case if it fails to reach a conclusion this time.

"State government will take final decision in the matter within one month, failing which, it will expose itself to
all the consequences for disobedience of the order of this court," the division bench wrote, after mentioning its five-month-old order, in which the court had given three-month period to the government to take decision on the same issue.

Last year, the state government made a resolution that admission to PG courses would be regulated by a common entrance test and there would be a single window system. However, the government and the universities did not implement this system, and a parents' association filed a PIL demanding that such institutes should not hold separate entrance test. In reply to this PIL, the state government in June this year told the court that a report of a committee headed by Kanubhai Kalsaria in this regard was under consideration of the government.

The court had then asked the government to take decision on whether CET should be held within three months or not.

But when the government could not come to any conclusion, the parents association filed another PIL reiterating their earlier demands.

Link: Original Article

December 12, 2009

Are physiotherapists doctors? - TN Govt in a Fix

Are physiotherapists doctors? For several decades, healthcare professionals have debated on the subject. With concerned authorities Upping the ante is a recent Tamil Nadu government order, prohibiting physiotherapists from using the title Dr' before their names. Protesting physiotherapists have appealed to the state health department to hold the order in abeyance until the matter is settled by the Supreme Court. The apex court, meanwhile, is hearing a special leave petition against an order of the Patna high court holding that there is no specific legal prohibition against physiotherapists using the Dr' title.

"There was no clarity on the issue; neither was there any rule for or against anyone at the national or state level," says state health secretary V K Subburaj. Senior health department officials point to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report on Allied Health (Paramedical) Services and Education Report' which lists physiotherapists with other paramedical personnel.

"Health being a state subject, we brought in our own rules to introduce an element of clarity. While doctors are governed by the Medical Council of India (MCI), there is no governing council for physiotherapists. We decided to start one and the common feeling across the healthcare sector and among officials was that physiotherapists should not be called doctors," he explains, adding that after the representation made by the physiotherapists' association, the state government is now reconsidering its decision and holding discussions.

According to MCI, the statutory body that regulates medical colleges, affiliations, new colleges and doctors' registration, the powers of the council are restricted to those who have studied allopathic medicine. "We can only say that people who have not cleared MBBS cannot use the title. There are several practitioners of ayurveda, homeopathy, siddha or unani. There are even traditional medical practioners who do not go to any medical school. Though the members of the council may have their opinion, the council does have the right to say whether they (physiotherapists) can use the title or not," says MCI vice president Kesavan Kutty Nayar.

Argues the head of the Indian Association of Physiotherapists, Chennai branch, I A Jayaprakash, "Like any medical doctor we study anatomy and physiology. We go through a curriculum for four-and-a-half years, just like they do. When dentists, ayurvedics and homeopaths can be doctors, why not us?" he asks.

Link: Original Article

An open appeal to prevent lowering of standard of Medical Education in India

An Open appeal to the Prime Minister, Health Ministry, the Medical Council of India and the National Board of Medical Examinations (DNB Board)

We want to prevent degradation of medical education standards! There is no point in lowering the standards of medical or health education to achieve the concept of appropriate rural health provisioning for India. Measures are required in right earnest by the MCI, DNB board, Health ministry, to allow for modernisation of medical education in a competitive unrestricted environment, as per world standards. We hereby call for help for disadvantaged medical professionals and to create a better environment and working conditions for all postgraduate medical doctors in India- this will prevent physician migration abroad and encourage rural health provisioning for the billion plus emergent India.

The medical council of India and the government of India are currently of the concurrent opinion that 4 and half year MBBS is the appropriate step forward to ease the shortage of medical staff in rural health facilities of India. True to similar concerns the supreme court in full earnest has reacted that a 3 year MBBS is sufficient for a rural populace so that it gets more doctors instead of getting rural health serviced by quack.

The president of India has exhorted at least two times this year that the MBBS fresh graduates and aspiring postgraduates serve at least one year in rural health provisioning. Meanwhile a new bill may be brought up in parliament in this winter session to effect the NCHRH bill provisions.
In the light of these facts, we from AIMDDA (All India MD/MS/DNB Doctors Association) wants to humbly draw attention of the nation to the plight of diploma and DNB candidates and seek government attention to these sons and daughters of the lesser god .

Case of the medical diplomates: Many medical diploma doctors have served this country as specialist’s doctors and tutors in medical colleges, and have worked for paltriest salaries, even lesser than an MSc educated non doctor, even within medical institutions and have suffered as second grade citizens in such institutions since independence.

We request the powers controlling medical education to take a liberal view of the problems face by these brethren and allow diploma doctors to be treated as par with MD doctors subject to certain conditions, well agreed by respective medical speciality associations. We can think of a national level written exam to elevate these medical diploma doctors to MD/MS degrees –or 3 year service as medical diploma can be deemed sufficient to treat them as equal to an MD/MS or similar suggestion. This problem if solved soon, will deliver many medical postgraduates to serve our rural population directly or indirectly.

Allow private practice during non office hours: also, currently all forms of private practice is restricted in government owned medical colleges. This results in many doctors not being able to serve of rural health and impoverished persons, in spite of their ability to treat competently. The doctors will have to be allowed to practice freely subject to precondition that they will not practice during their government duty hours. Also many MD/MS from preclinical and para clinical sciences are not practicing and these doctors can be incentevised by the government to help care the rural and urban poor better than ever.

Also the salary paid by the government is for the 8-10 hour stipulated work period only and cannot stipulate that a doctor cannot render consultancy services for profit beyond his designated office ours as similar consultancy is allowed in other professions, in India and abroad. If such moonlighting is legal for other professionals it cannot be illegal for our government Doctors to practice, beyond office hours.

Plight of the DNB brethren: We wish to draw attention to the fact that many doctors are trying to do post-graduation in hospitals attached to the DNB board, and many of these are well recognized by our medical education patron the medical council of India. But many of our toiling DNB brethren are unhappy that they are not getting the similar pass percentage as the MD/MS brethren in medical colleges permitted by MCI.

We request the powers within the health ministry to note that this high failure rate does not yield more postgraduates to serve the health impoverished nation. Hence it is in national interest to release more DNB postgraduates imprisoned in such failures. We, from the All India MD/ MS/ DNB Doctors Association fervently appeal to increase the pass percentage of such doctors, who will also alleviate rural health problems of India, soon. This will also fulfil the wishes of the nation, our president and other thinkers on health of our nation.

Recognise & value our rural services: No others professionals get compelled to work in rural areas-Also we understand that the nation or the courts do not make similar observation regarding rural service by a lawyer, judge, chartered accountant, an engineer, a dentist, a physiotherapist or any other professional. We can understand the importance attached to doctors, and the compelling reason thereof as a result of that extreme respect.

Loans @ 2 percent interest for rural medical practitioners to establish hospitals: Rural doctors should get loans to build their hospitals at lowest interest rates so that their patients (consumers) get the ultimate benefit of reduced service costs. We request the government should provide us broadband internet facilities to connect to the best hospitals in the world while we envision our rural hospitals for public benefit. Such doctors can be given land by the government at concessional rates. In short, we should be given a better deal if doctors have to shift to the countryside.

Foreign educated doctors: our doctors graduated abroad face similar discrimination by the health ministry which has to be more prudent and liberal in allowing the entry of medical graduates and postgraduates educated abroad, we appeal to the medical leadership to end this disturbance to our medical brethren, by ensuring parity, without harassing these professionals-as they will be hundred times better than 3 year or 4 year MBBS cadre to be created or a quack.

Act on illegal doctors/cross practicing doctors of Indian systems of medicine: Stop quackery: The government can publicise that quacks will be legally penalized if they continue their quackery after being noted by the local health authorities. The policing of quackery should be taken up seriously and the legal system should be empowered to take action against these forms of illegal medical practice.

We, the doctors of the All India MD/MS/DNB Doctors Association with like minded associations like the Indian Medical Association and other professional associations want health of our rural fellow Indians to be as healthy as per world standards and are ready to serve their health purposes. We request community support against quackery, dilution of medical education standards, and dilution of health education standards in general. We request the courts of this country and vigilant non-governmental organizations supporting health for all and against health inequities to support our cause.

For a healthy nation
All India MD/MS/DNB Doctors Association.

Microsoft To Purchase Health Care Software Specialist Sentillion

Software maker Microsoft has recently been moving cautiously in an attempt to expand its software in to health-care industry, on Thursday announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire “Sentillion Inc.,” a privately held developer of software tools for the healthcare industry.

Perhaps most publicly with its HealthVault services aimed at hospitals, which empowers users to share and control access to their own medical records, healthcare organizations, and researchers, will evolve with products from Sentillion starting in 2010, the Redmond company announced.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed; But essentially, the software giant plans to leverage Sentillion's products with the Amalga UIS, in order to streamline access to multiple IT applications, as well as sources of patient data.

“Microsoft and Sentillion share a common vision of a connected health system in which the free and rapid flow of information, combined with streamlined access to a hospital's myriad healthcare applications, empowers doctors and nurses to perform their roles with greater insight, speed and effectiveness,” explained Peter Neupert, corporate vice president, Microsoft Health Solutions Group. “As a result, our products and strategies are a natural fit. Joining efforts with Sentillion will allow us to amplify and accelerate the impact we can make in health IT and health globally.”

The two companies are anticipating to finalize the deal in early 2010, and said that Sentillion would continue to provide existing customers with support, as well as sell new products, all from its current corporate headquarters in Andover.

Sentillion's products include Vergence, a clinical workstation platform that streamlines caregivers' access to applications and patient data, and Tap & Go and Tap2, which offers instant access to clinical applications with the “tap of a passive proximity badge,” and proVision automatic provisioning system, according to the company's Website.

Microsoft officials said the acquisition will strengthen the company's presence in the growing market for healthcare IT systems.

Microsoft said it intends to unite Sentillion's context and single sign-on technologies into its Amalga UIS real-time data integration solution. The objective is to give physicians real-time access to patient information and other key, clinical data.

“With its commitment to enhancing health and the global resources it brings to bear, Microsoft is the perfect partner to expand our efforts worldwide,” said Sentillion CEO Robert Seliger, in a statement.

Sentillion's application is designed to streamline information stored in a variety of copyrighted systems, including legacy applications, Windows systems, Unix-based servers, and even Web-based data sources.

The digitization of healthcare records and information is fast becoming a hot-button issue in both technological and political circles, since easy accessibility of medical information presents abundant opportunities of privacy abuses, misuse, and fraud. On the other hand, being able to access appropriate medical information quickly can literally be the difference between life and death in some cases, and many prevent common medical errors.

Microsoft's commitment is that clinicians will be able to benefit from a boost in speed as well as increased insight in relation to patient data. Sentillion already caters to more than 1,000 hospitals in its customer base, where Microsoft's relatively new Amalga system is running at a little over 100 hospitals.

Sentillion's customers include University of Pennsylvania Health System, the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs, Kettering Health Network, and Texas Children's Hospital. Sentillion will continue to offer its products and operate out of its Massachusetts location, while Microsoft will work on combining the companies' technologies.

Link: Original Article

December 10, 2009

100 new med colleges for rural India

The Medical Council of India (MCI) is concerned about the health care situation in the rural areas of the country. It plans to set up around 100 medical colleges in the rural areas of India, said Dr Ketan Desai, president-elect, World Medical Council. He was in the city to attend the function organised by the Indian Medical Association, Gujarat branch, to felicitate him for his achievements.

India is in the driving seat in the field of medicine because of the sheer number of medical institutions it has. At present, India has around 300 medical schools which account for around 14 per cent of the total medical schools in the world, said Desai.

He also said that the health care services have not reached the rural areas of the country. Many people have to go to the nearby city for treatment which is reason enough for opening more medical colleges in the rural areas.

MCI is also planning to curb the menace of freebees given to the physicians by the pharmaceutical companies, said Desai.

Hundreds of doctors from across Gujarat turned up to felicitate and congratulate Dr Ketan Desai for being elected as president of World Medical Council. People from tribal areas of Virampur near Ambaji also performed their traditional dance as a gesture of gratitude.Lalabhai Lakhabhai from Virampur said that the tribal people of Virampur are getting medical facilities only because of the philanthropic work of Dr Desai and his wife Dr Alka Desai.

Link: Original Article

Maharashtra Health Minister for short-term health courses

Maharashtra health minister Suresh Shetty is for changing the norms and pattern of the medical education system so that it could respond to present day requirements.

Speaking to press persons here on Friday, Shetty said instead of the present system that takes six years to complete medical education, the Medical Council of India (MCI) should introduce short-term courses.

There were huge backlog in posts in the department of health in Maharashtra and it has become quite difficult to get enough candidates for the posts of doctors and paramedical staff. The demand was more than the supply in the paramedical field. Short-term medical courses may help get suitable candidates for health services in rural areas, he said adding that MCI has agreed in principle to the proposal to introduce short-term medical courses.

Link: Original Article

MCI asks Centre to reconsider NCHRH bill

In a last ditch effort to stop the ministry of Health and Family Welfare from tabling the National Council for Human Resources in Health Bill (NCHRH), 2009 in ongoing winter session of Parliament, which will make way for major changes in the field of medical education and will see the Medical Council of India (MCI) being scrapped, the council has asked the Centre to reconsider the proposed bill on the grounds that it is inconsistent with trends pertaining to regulation of health sciences education in the developed world.
According to a report furnished by MCI functionaries, the bill will hand over the entire control and the functioning of the democratically constituted council to government appointees and a few medical professionals nominated by the government. “This is nothing but a brazen attempt to take over of the entire control and functioning of the autonomous council by complete centralisation, a move that is contrary to well-established democratic principles that continue to remain imperative. This violates Constitutional rights and will affect the day-to-day functioning of the council,” the report says.
The report also states that the draft bill is directly in conflict with the conclusions and recommendations of an ad hoc committee constituted by the Supreme Court.
Criticising the government’s move as undemocratic, the report points out that members of the task force that recommended the scrapping of the MCI have never held any elected position in any medical education body themselves or been associated with the functioning of the council.
“Their recommendations are the antithesis of the legislation that constituted the MCI and against observations of courts that the autonomy of bodies like the MCI should be maintained. The proposed bill entirely destroys the most significant tool for securing autonomy of the council,” the report states.
The MCI has observed that “professional councils being manned by people from outside the profession who do not have the requirements needed and do not go through the tested norms of democratic elections is unheard of worldwide”.

Link: Original Article

Doctors, opposition slam West Bengal's Bill on 3-yr medical diploma course

The West Bengal government’s move to table a Bill to allow for a three-year medical diploma course in Bengal in the winter session of the state Assembly has failed to find favour with doctors who say it must not be an alternative to a four-year-MBBS degree.

State Health Minister Surya Kanta Misra, while refusing to discuss the details of the Bill, said it will be a three-year diploma course.

Satyajit Chakrabarty, secretary, Association of Health Service Doctors, said, “We want it to be made clear this is not a short-term medical course. Since this diploma will not be recognised by the Medical Council of India, they cannot write ‘doctors’ before their names and will not be allowed to hand out death certificates. There is a lot of confusion about it. We want clarity.”

He, however, said they were not entirely against the course since it could aid health care at the gram panchayat level.

“Those applying for the course should at least have a high school degree, much like the nurses’ training course,” said Chakrabarty.

Md Masiha, the chief government whip, said the state government had already drafted the entire Bill, which the subject committee has examined and submitted a report to the Assembly.

The state health department is likely to place the Bill in the Assembly on December 14 or 15,” said Masiha.

Meanwhile, Congress Legislative Party (CLP) leader Manas Bhuniya said the proposed diploma course was “unscientific and detrimental”.

“They did something similar around 10 to 15 years ago but the course had to be discontinued. How can the state government send people without MBBS degrees to villages to treat locals? This course will be illegal as it will not even have the recognition by the Medical Council of India (MCI). How can a person treat a patient without even the recognition from the MCI. There are enough village quacks...why does the state government want to increase their ranks,” said Bhuniya.

He said the Central government is already planning to address the issue of inadequate doctors in the rural sector.

“The central government is planning to introduce a Bill in the coming session of Parliament which will make it mandatory for all the MBBS pass-outs to serve in villages before they take up post-graduation,” he said.

Link: Original Article

December 03, 2009

Centre's decision for quota in medical PG not binding on states, says SC

In a ruling having a major ramification for medical education, the Supreme Court on Wednesday held that the Centre's decision to provide quota for SCs and STs in post-graduate medical courses did not automatically bind the state governments to follow suit and implement it in their medical colleges.

It took note of the fact that the Centre has provided for reservation to SC and ST candidates in the All India Entrance Examination for MD/MS/PG Diploma and MDS courses and also in the All-India quota PG seats, but firmly handed down the ruling that "the same cannot automatically be applied in other sections where state governments have power to regulate."

Moreover, the Bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices P Sathasivam and J M Panchal appeared disinclined to grant a direction to the states to follow the example set by the central government. It upheld the Haryana government's decision not to provide quota for SC/ST in PG medical courses.

"In our view, every state can take its own decision with regard to reservation depending on various factors," said Justice Sathasivam writing the judgment for the Bench.

It said: "Article 15(4) is an enabling provision and the state government is the best judge to grant reservation for SC/ST/Backward Class categories at PG level in admissions and the decision of the state of Haryana not to make any provision for reservation at the PG level suffers no infirmity."

It accepted the Bhupinder Hooda government's explanation that reservation in under-graduate medical courses is being provided strictly as per their policy but the PG level education in medical education was governed by the Medical Council of India (MCI).
It noted that "even the MCI has not followed strict adherence to the rule of reservation in admisions for SC/ST category at the post-graduate level."

"In such circumstances, the court cannot issue mandamus (to the state) against their decision and their prospectus also cannot be faulted for not providing reservation in PG courses," the Bench said dismissing appeals filed by one DR Gulshan Prakash faulting the Haryana government's decision not to provide reservation in PG-level medical courses in Maharshi Dayanand University.

Link: Original Article

Law to prevent govt doctors from taking company favours soon

The Centre today said it would soon frame a law to prevent government doctors from receiving gifts and cash from pharmaceutical companies.

“Doctors take favours from pharma companies either in the form of cash or in kind and in return give unnecessary favour to them...They prescribe costly medicines of that company...To stop this, the Centre has decided to formulate a law and implement it soon,” Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Gulam Nabi Azad said at a Nationalistic Doctor’s Forum programme.

Azad said the Centre would set up an AIIMS-like institute in West Bengal soon and the state government has already agreed to allot 100-acre land for the purpose.

The Union government has sanctioned Rs 890 crore for the 960-bed hospital with super-speciality facility, he said.

A central fund of Rs 140 crore has also been sanctioned for upgrading Calcutta Medical College and Hospital.

He said the Centre has also decided to go in for a private-public partnership to accelerate and improve the healthcare system of the country.

Link: Original Article

Malnutrition reaches epidemic proportions in Madhya Pradesh

Malnutrition has reached epidemic proportions in most parts of Madhya Pradesh, with children being the most vulnerable group.

This, along with a general deterioration in the health conditions of children and continuing government apathy towards tribal regions, has resulted in a large number of child and infant deaths being reported.

Over 25 children died in two villages of the Jhabua district in the past four weeks. Agasia and Madarani villages, falling in the Meghnagar block of the predominantly tribal district, registered 27 deaths since October 19.

Alarmingly enough, most of these children were in the 0-6 age group and most weren’t even registered at the local anganwadi centre. Agasia and Madarani are just a small part of the larger story that has emerged. Recent reports from Sidhi district mention the death of 22 children in 48 days since August 2009. Malnutrition, especially among the tribal populations of the State, according to the reports of the Supreme Court Commissioners and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, is much higher than in sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-III, 60 per cent of the children in the 0-3 years category in Madhya Pradesh are malnourished, while 82.6 per cent in this category are anaemic. The Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) in the State stands at 70/1,000, while the same indicator for tribal areas is 95.6/1,000.

In October, The Hindu first reported severe malnutrition among the Kol tribal group in Jawa block of Rewa district. Recently, the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) issued an international appeal to several organisations urging them to persuade the State government to address the issue. The AHRC report mentions that over 80 per cent malnourished children are in Rewa.

The deaths in Jhabua have reportedly been caused due to symptoms resembling those of dengue and malaria along with high incidence of anaemia. However, the alarming levels of malnutrition in the region could be the primary cause, leading to a fall in immunity levels.

“We have discovered 14 deaths till now and the primary causes are severe malnutrition, anaemia and falciparum malaria,” says Meghnagar Block Medical Officer (BMO) Vikram Verma.

“Anganwadis are located far from these regions and the ANMs [Auxiliary Nurse and Midwives] too hardly ever reach there. This, along with the remoteness of these tribal regions, compounds the problem. We are taking this seriously and efforts are on to address the situation.”

While the BMO’s statements acknowledge the seriousness of the situation, the ambiguous position of the Health Department comes to the fore with an entirely different version of the story from the joint director of Health. “There have been only four deaths and that too, in early October. I have ordered action against the supervisor and the ANM and served a show cause notice on the BMO over the delay in reporting this situation,” said K.K. Vijayvargiya. He refuted any role of malnutrition in the deaths. “Although the reasons are not clear, there definitely is no malnutrition, maybe just seasonal fever.”

The apathy and indifference displayed by the health officials have led the villagers to seek medical help from quacks and private practitioners. “The children here appear extremely weak and show malaria and dengue like symptoms and die within an average span of four days,” says Ajit Singh, a local journalist.

While the Health apparatus is obviously not serious about handling the issue, other social welfare schemes do not seem to be helping either. The fathers of all the four children who died in Agasia village were not with their families as they had migrated to seek employment since their National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme cards were being withheld by the village sarpanch.

The displacement of tribal groups from their traditional forest dwellings, where they had access to minor forest produce like berries and other fruits to feed their children, has made matters worse in a scenario where the Public Distribution System shops in tribal areas often open only once a month.

The last reports received from the region said one more child died in Madarani. The situation in Agasia, where four deaths have taken place, was deteriorating, with eight children in the 0-6 age group being critical. The district administration’s response, however, continues to be cold.

Link: Original Article

MCI for ban on gifts to docs by pharma cos

Medical Council of India has written to Union ministry of health and family welfare for an amendment in Indian Medical Council (professional conduct, etiquette and ethics) regulations, 2002, to prohibit doctors from accepting any gift from any pharmaceutical or allied health care industry.

The move is likely to face stiff resistance from the pharma lobby as well as a section of doctors who have been benefiting from largesses showed by the pharma industry. MCI chairman Dr Ketan Desai, an Ahmedabad-based urologist, said the council has forwarded to the Centre an MCI resolution adopted on November 18 titled “Building a healthy relationship based on self-regulation between doctors and pharmaceutical and allied health sector industries and preventing unscrupulous practices by doctors.”

The resolution was passed by the MCI’s executive committee based on the recommendations of a sub-committee.

There are new proposed guidelines for a medical practitioner to carry out, participate in, work in research projects funded by pharmaceutical and allied health care industries. The particular research proposal will need to have due permission from the competent authorities concerned.

Dr Desai said: “If these recommendations are made a part of the ethics regulations of the MCI by suitable amendment, it will go a long way in ushering in a credible, transparent, just and scientific relationship between doctors and pharmaceutical and allied health care industries.”

Link: Original Article

India has 'world-class health care', say Canadians

Canadians are increasingly looking to India for timely medical treatment as wait periods under the country's public health system get longer. Many are saying they would recommend India to anyone seeking "world-class health care" at a small cost.

At this week's conference on medical tourism to India in Toronto, Canadians who benefited from medical treatment - heart operation, spine surgery or knee transplant - in India sang praises of the Indian healthcare system.

Narrating their experiences at the three-day "India: Medical Tourism Destination 2009" conference, they lauded Indian hospitals, doctors and after-care as among "the very best in the world".

Said Doug Antoniak, who has just returned from India after a successful spine surgery: "I would recommend India to anyone in a heart-beat. Indian doctors have changed my life for the better."

He said: "I had two failed surgeries in Canada, but my pain didn't go. It was getting worse all the time."

Then he and his wife Cathy watched someone on television narrating his successful spine surgery in India in 2007.

"This guy was Jeff Clarke. His television appearance assured me about the quality of the Indian healthcare system," he said.

Soon, the Canadian couple landed at Apollo Hospital in Chennai.

"The Indian surgeons put rods and discs in my back. But because I had been having this problem since 1988, the first surgery didn't help much. This year, they again put more rods to stabiliae my condition. I am much, much better," said the middle-aged Canadian from Waterloo near Toronto.

The couple paid $40,000 for the surgery, airfare, five-star accommodation and 45-day after-care.

"Had we gone to the US, it would have cost us $250,000. We got world-class medical care for a lot less. I will go to India in a minute," said Antoniak's wife Cathy.

"We want to tell people in North America that medical treatment in India is not only timely but also very cost-effective," said Dr Narottam Puri, who represented Fortis group at the conference.

Added Pradeep Thukral, executive director of the Indian Medical Travel Association: "Canadians will overcome the mental block as more and more of them go to India for a quick procedure (ortho, spine or cardiac)."

All major Indian hospitals, including Max, Fortis and Apoll, came here to woo Canadian patients. They also held talks with Canadian health institutions for collaboration in medical research.

Link: Original Article

Health card prop for national ID project

The health ministry’s smart card project for the newborn can provide valuable data to the Unique Identification Authority of India, which under former Infosys chief Nandan Nilekani, is preparing a social security card for all Indians.

Nilekani’s unique identity card programme may dovetail into the proposed e-health card project, which junior health minister Dinesh Trivedi is spearheading.

“I had an exhaustive meeting with Nandan Nilekani and officials of the unique identification project and we both agreed that the e-health card project could well form the basis of new data for the UID project, besides dovetailing into it,” Trivedi told The Telegraph today.

Besides birth details, the e-health card will have information on immunisation and major illnesses. It is being put together by Sam Pitroda, the brain behind India’s early telecom revolution and currently the chairman of the Knowledge Commission.

Nilekani was appointed the head of the unique identity project with the rank of a cabinet minister by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this year. His project, which comes after the Mumbai terror attacks, plans to give all Indians a social security card and a number, similar to the system in the US.

The smart card will not only help welfare departments to target beneficiaries more efficiently but also allow police to keep tabs on individuals who have illegally entered the country.

“We have already started a pilot project to collect data for the e-health card in Barrackpore in Bengal (which the minister represents),” said Trivedi. The project would be extended to cover the rest of the country on the basis of the Barrackpore experience.

Nilekani’s work has been hampered by a lack of comprehensive data on Indian citizens, especially the very poor, despite the voter ID and ration cards. Besides, his department is yet to work out a system of getting data on the newborns.

Link: Original Article

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