June 30, 2011

Medical seats for sale in Maharashtra

Students who have filled up forms for medical entrance exams of private colleges and deemed universities in the state are being offered a shortcut to success. But it comes at a steep price: Rs 12-16 lakh, besides regular fees.

Even before the results are out, with some exams yet to be conducted, SMSes are raining down on candidates, promising them a place on merit lists. It is not clear how touts obtained the candidates' cellphone numbers, but collusion of college authorities is evident. The racket is being carried out blatantly, as the touts, who call themselves education consultants, issue post-dated cheques as securities for taking an advance from willing candidates.

"I started receiving the messages just the day after submitting my form. Till now, I have received more than 15 messages and all of them look like they have been sent using a website. I initially thought they were spam, but friends who called up the numbers told me they were for real," said a student from Matunga.

Among the students TOI spoke to, some said they were confident about making it to the colleges on their own and have ignored the messages. But many have fallen for the touts. TOI obtained the numbers of a few touts from the students and called up (see transcripts in graphic), pretending to be a candidate. Almost all said appearance in the entrance tests is a prerequisite for them to ensure a seat. One of them claimed he would be able to ensure admission in 10 days.

"You need to pay an advance. I will take care of things after that. You need to make the final payment to the owner or the trustee of the college; it should be at one go. And yes, the annual tuition fee would be higher than the regular fee. The amounts will be higher if you score very low in the entrance test," said a tout, who maintains an office in Pune. He said the admission would be provided under the 15% NRI quota.

When TOI contacted a college mentioned by a tout, an official said: "Admissions to all our group colleges are done completely on the basis of merit. The NRI quota is the management's prerogative, but that too is filled on the basis of merit."

Kamal Kishore Kadam, president, Association of Managements of Unaided and Private Medical and Dental Colleges, which conducts the entrance exam ASSO-CET, said: "Students should not fall prey to such messages. They should approach the police and file a complaint."

Link: Original Article

June 29, 2011

GMR Group in JV talks with Apollo Hospitals & Mayo Clinic for $1 billion healthcare foray

Infrastructure conglomerate GMR Group is in talks with multiple potential partners including Prathap Reddy's Apollo Hospitals Group and US-based healthcare provider Mayo Clinic to set up a large hospital project in Hyderabad where it plans to invest close to $1 billion, two people said on condition of anonymity because the talks are private.

One of the people quoted above said that GMR plans to use the surplus land it owns around the Hyderabad airport to build what could be one of the largest hospitals in Asia and wants to rope in partners of international repute for the same.

The discussions between GMR, Apollo Hospitals and Mayo Clinic are at a preliminary stage and may not result in a deal, according to the person quoted above.

The three parties are in talks to form a joint venture company to execute the project.

A spokersperson for GMR said in response to queries from ET Now, "There is nothing definitive as yet. Yes, we are talking to at least a couple of leading hospitals for a possible tie-up for our Health Port in Hyderabad but no details are currently available for confirmation to you".

Suneeta Reddy, Executive Director, Finance, at Apollo Hospitals Enterprises Limited said in an emailed response to queries regarding the potential transaction, "At this time there are no facts to validate this information".

Mayo clinic did not respond to emailed queries.

Mayo Clinic is a not for profit organization that runs a number of clinics, hospitals and medical research facilities and schools in different parts of the USA. The group reported revenues of over $7.5 billion for the year 2009. Mayo Clinic reinvests all the profits it makes into the various medical facilities that it operates.

Large hospital chains such as Apollo Hospitals and Fortis Healthcare are looking at ways to tap the market for medical tourism in India, where world-class healthcare facilities and doctors are available at lower costs.

"GMR will also benefit from a project of this nature as it will complement its airports business if the hospital is able to attract a large number of overseas patients", one person familiar with the company's plans said.

Link: Original Article

June 28, 2011

Foreign faculty in med colleges soon

Union health ministry’s initiative to invite doctors with foreign medical degrees to teach in Indian medical Colleges is a success, with several senior doctors applying as faculty. The post-graduate medical degrees of five countries— United States of America, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have been recognized by the ministry to recruit senior doctors as faculty. The ministry also approved one professor for two students in post-graduation to accommodate more medical students.

“Shortage of human resource in medical field, especially faculty, was one of the greyest areas when I took over. My thrust area has been providing quality healthcare by way of capacity building and creating human resource,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, union health minister.

In last two years, about 250 medical colleges in the country got additional 3625 under-graduate and 7470 post-graduate seats. There has been an overall increase of 50% post-graduate seats, highest in past 60 years. Out of 25 new medical colleges in the pipeline, six All India Institute of Medical Sciences (Aiims)-like hospitals will be functional by October next year.

In new initiatives, the health ministry will provide free medicines and diet for pregnant women in all government hospitals from next month. The move is aimed at bringing under control maternal mortality and infant mortality rate. “The scheme for pregnant women will start from June 1 under which free medicines, free diet during stay in hospitals, and free transport to health facility and back home will be ensured,” said Azad.

In two weeks from now, the health ministry will establish a call centre facility where people will be recruited on a part-time basis in Delhi, to track down immunization figures provided by the states. “Vaccination programme in states is being fully funded by the centre. It is, therefore, required to monitor whether the exercise is being done properly in states or data is being fudged. We’ll maintain a data base with names, numbers and addresses of parents, which will be verified by our staff here. It is to make the system transparent,” added Azad.

One lakh rupees have been allocated for each person undergoing chemotherapy for cancer in government hospitals in 100 districts. The scheme will roll out from next year and is expected to cover 10,000 people. Diagnostic equipment will also be provided to district hospitals for early detection of cancer. The facility of diabetes screening for people above 30 years of age and all pregnant women will be made available at 100 sub-centres, and later extended to the entire country. “This will be the largest exercise in the world, and by next year we will have screened between 20 to 50 crore people,” said Azad.

More than one-lakh Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers have been added to the list of 7 lakh to ensure effective implementation of government policies such as distribution of sanitary napkins to 1.4 million girls between 10 years and 19 years in 20 states across states.

Government will soon notify new pictorial warnings on tobacco products, which will be ‘harsher’ in case of chewing tobacco as it has been found more harmful than smoking.

“The Directorate of Visual Publicity have selected some pictures. There will be two types of warnings -- for cigarettes and for smokeless tobacco,” said Azad.

Link: Original Article

June 27, 2011

AstraZeneca stops free trips of doctors

AstraZeneca has created a stir in the pharmaceutical industry by announcing that it is scrapping payments for doctors to attend international medical congresses. However, the company will continue to pay for local educational opportunities for healthcare professionals.

This announcement comes close on the heels of major initiatives by both the US and the UK goverments to tackle corrupt practices of pharma industries especially bribing of doctors to promote their products. In contrast, the government of India, instead of drafting a tough law to curb unethical practices in the drug industry, is drafting a code that will be left to the pharma industry itself to enforce.

As healthcare costs rise worldwide, concern has grown about financial ties between doctors and drugmakers. That has already led to bans on lavish entertainment and the end to a range of free gifts from pens to mugs to computer accessories. AstraZeneca's decision to stop paying for medics to fly to international medical and scientific meetings is said to have taken things to a new level.

In the US, the pharmaceutical industry has paid about $20 billion in penalties over the last two decades for various frauds including paying kickbacks to doctors and for pushing drugs on patients to whom they were not supposed to be prescribed. The industry has been labelled the largest defrauder of the US government, toppling defence industry from top slot. And the US in turn has turned the screws on the industry.

Last year Astrazeneca shelled out the second largest settlement of $520 million for illegally marketing antipsychotic drug.

Link: Original Article

Gory pics on tobacco packs from Dec 1

Finally, gory pictorial warnings like that of rotting mouths, hanging gums and infected lungs, will appear on cigarette, bidi, cigar and smokeless or chewing tobacco packets from December 1.

The Union health ministry issued the notification on Saturday after years of buckling to resistance from the all-powerful tobacco lobby. The latest notification contains a set of four pictures each of lung and oral cancer.

The warnings, which will be rotated every two years, are aimed at discouraging people from consuming tobacco. Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad gave his nod to the new pictorial warnings on Friday night.

Link: Original Article

June 26, 2011

TN med council locks horns with MCI

A stand-off between the Tamil Nadu State Medical Council and the Medical Council of India (MCI) is threatening to spoil the monitoring of ethical medical practices and other administrative affairs governing the medical fraternity in the state.

The state council has decided to meet Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to protest against the newly-appointed MCI. The state council, which has over one lakh doctors registered, has not been represented in the council, which was nominated by the centre.

"We will not cooperate with this MCI which has no representative from the southern states. We demand that a new MCI be elected, not nominated. If that is not done, we will move the court," said Tamil Nadu State Medical Council president Dr K Prakasam.

The Medical Council of India is a statutory body which oversees the standards of medical education in India, grants licenses to recognize medical colleges and medical degrees, registers practitioners and oversees ethical practices. Disciplinary actions against recommended by MCI against doctors have to be carried by the state medical council concerned.

In 2010, the government replaced MCI with a board after the elected president Dr Ketan Desai was arrested on charges of taking bribe to recognise a medical college in Punjab. Earlier this month, senior cardiologist Dr KK Talwar, former director, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education, Chandigarh replaced Dr SK Sarin as MCI president. The ministry nominated four doctors as members of the board -- Dr SK Sharma (Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai), Dr Harbhajan Singh Rassam (Max Heart and Vascular Institute, New Delhi, Dr Rajiv Chitaman Yeravdekar (Symbiosis International University, Pune) and Dr Purushotham Lal (Metro Hospitals) in place of five members who were appointed earlier.

"When they appointed a board last year, it did not have any representatives from the state. The only representative from South was Dr Devi Shetty. This year, there is none for the southern states," said Dr Prakasam, who has sought for meeting with the health minister in Delhi next week.

The friction doesn't augur well for smooth administration of the medical fraternity. In 2010, when the government appointed board headed by Dr SK Sarin introduced the common entrance test for MBBS course, the union health ministry called the order illegal. States like Tamil Nadu obtained stay orders from the court on the common entrance.

Link: Original Article

June 04, 2011

Excellence tag for three public health centres

Three Public Health Centres (PHCs) of Gujarat were awarded accreditation by National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Providers (NABH) on Friday, a development top health officials hope would better primary healthcare in a state where the government is forced to hunt for and hire doctors from outside due to acute shortage.

Gujarat already has two PHCs that have been accredited by the NABH and new accreditations bring the number to five. No other state has accredited PHCs although NABH officials said Delhi is moving towards accrediting its dispensaries.

NABH accreditation, normally given to hospitals, is considered a mark of excellence in healthcare. It is “a transformational experience” that boosts the confidence and enthusiasm of the staff working in these centres, Gujarat’s Health Secretary Rajesh Kishore said.

Speaking at a national conference in Ahmedabad where the awards were given away, Kishore recalled the time he first visited India’s first accredited PHC at Gadhboriad in Vadodara district.

“I was not unfamiliar with the normal state of PHCs, but this PHC was very different. The staff and nurses were actually smiling and working with enthusiasm. The infrastructure was better than any I had seen before. I could see immediately that the accreditation was a transformational experience,” said Kishore, who had then joined the Health Department as Principal Secretary.

Gujarat has been struggling to fill up its vacancies for doctors, even sending teams to neighbouring states to recruit medical graduates and helping them register with the state’s medical council. Top officials privately rue that the state’s doctors are largely uninterested in joining the government healthcare set-up and prefer setting up their own clinics in cities and bigger towns, leading to a manpower shortage.

Soon after the Gadhboriad PHC, the PHC Mahuwas at Vansada in Navsari district too received NABH accreditation. On Friday, three more PHCs — at Jetalpur in Ahmedabad district, Salun in Kheda district and Sokhada in Vadodara district — were awarded the NABH accreditation at a national conference titled “Best Practice in Healthcare Delivery,” organised jointly by the Gujarat government and the Quality Council of India, under which the NABH functions.

Blood banks too get NABH tag

Three blood banks, one medical laboratory and a 33 family-friendly hospitals were also awarded NABH accreditation at Friday’s conference. The three blood banks are attached to medical colleges in Vadodara, Surat and Bhavnagar, while the medical laboratory is in Ahmedabad.

Link: Original Article

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