Drastic Cutback of Medical Seat to Affect Thousands of Students
MCI slashes Medical Seats in Bengal : The Medical Council of India had recently revoked approval for 1045 MBBS seats in West Bengal. Though 400 seats have been restored the council has not reconsidered the remaining 645.Seven medical colleges had initially been barred from admitting students altogether. They accounted for 750 lost seats and include four government colleges. These included -
• The College of Medicine and Sagore Dutta Hospital in Barrackpore
• Malda Medical College and Hospital
• Murshidabad Medical College and Hospital
• ESIC Medical College, Joka • College of Medicine & JNM Hospital, Kalyani
• IQ-City Medical College, Burdwan
• The ICARE Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Haldia.
Later on the 15th of June the MCI allowed admissions in 150 seats of IQ City, Burdwan and 100 seats of ICARE, Haldia.
The intake capacity of the other medical colleges had also been reduced from a total of 1700 to 1155. This includes -
• 100 seats in Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College,
• 95 in Calcutta Medical College,
• 50 in Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research (SSKM),
• 50 in RGKar Medical College,
• 100 seats in Burdwan Medical College,
• 100 in Murshidabad Medical College,
• 50 in Bankura Medical College.
The 100 seats in Murshidabad and 50 in Burdwan Medical Colleges have been restored.
Objections raised : The MCI’s main objection lies with the infrastructural inadequacy. The number of medical seats in the state increased dramatically after 2011. The medical colleges have failed to expand their infrastructure to support the increase in the number of seats in the past 3 years. The West Bengal State government had a responsibility to build infrastructure in terms of lecture halls, laboratories, hostel beds, number of teachers, etc to accommodate this increase. While the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee is quick to claim the credit for the increase in the number of seats, she has done nothing to ensure that the increased intake is based concretely on increased capacity of the institutes. The studied neglect of her government is clearly evident in the crisis that the colleges are facing since their intakes were suddenly increased. Students of these institutions have been persistently expressing concern about the shortage of lecture theatres, non-availability of hostel beds, poor teacher-student ratios etc. The colleges do not meet the set standards of the MCI. Each year, after the inspections, the colleges submit letters ensuring compliance to MCI norms. In spite of repeated warnings they keep failing to fulfill their promises. In addition it has become common knowledge how the actual state of infrastructure and manpower is misrepresented in these colleges during the inspections, thus implying that the non-compliance with MCI standards is more than what it appears on pen and paper.
MCI Guidelines : The MCI has made it clear in its guidelines what a medical college should have. Each college should have the requisite infrastructure - a central lecture room with gallery, departmental library, central laboratory, blood bank, central casualty department, central hospital pharmacy, incinerating plant, hostel for students, residential accommodation for interns. A college should have beds in the ratio of 1:8 according to student intake. Beds should have at least 80% occupancy a year. Each room in the students' hostel should not have more than three occupants. More important, the MCI has also specified the faculty strength in each department - one professor, one associate professor, two assistant professors, and four demonstrators. After the increase in intake came about almost none of the medical colleges in West Bengal meet these norms
Real State of Medical Education: Some snapshots of the realities of the Government Medical Colleges of West Bengal have come up in a recent article in a news daily. Our student comrades in the different medical colleges are helping us to develop these into a complete picture –
• Lecture halls – Each college should have at least 6 lecture halls to accommodate the 5 batches studying there simultaneously. There are only 3 functional halls at Calcutta Medical College, 2 at SSKM, 2 at Maldah MCH and 3 at Medinipore MCH. Classes are often cancelled because none of the lecture theatres are available. The seating capacity in several of these is less than class strength by 50 or 100.
• Hostel accommodation is another major problem. In CMC the hostel capacity is 500 for a student strength of 1060. No new space has been allotted for students’ hostels over the entire period since the seats were increased. Instead the number of beds per room has been increased indefinitely. Overcrowding and lack of basic hygiene and amenities in the hostels is almost universal.
• Girl’s hostel seats are a scarcity in almost all the colleges, with CMC providing accommodation to around only 20 girls in each batch, RGKar having only once girl’s hostel of 120 capacity, and no empty hostel seats to accommodate first years at Maldah Medical College.
• Teacher-Student Ratio: The lack of increase in manpower implies that the teacher student ratio in practical classes, demonstrations and clinical tutorials has almost doubled. This has undermined the quality of practical demonstrations in a coursework which depends largely on hands-on training.
• The college libraries rarely provide reference books, journals or access to the internet. In Calcutta Medical college the exam hall-cum-auditorium was transformed into the library extension 3 years ago to get MCI approval for 95 new seats. The library extension lies unused under lock and key.
• Ironically CMC has no functioning examination hall for over 3 years. Internal examinations for MBBS students are held at the Nursing College within the campus. Only university examinations are held at the unused new academic building, that too without fans or ACs.
• Security : The interns have long complained of lack of security while on duty at odd hours. Though they are supposed to be on campus at all hours most interns and other junior doctors are denied hostel accommodation. This problem is compounded by the lack of on-call rooms at several departments. One girl told us that she had joined as house staff at a government medical college but would have to discontinue because the department she had joined had no on-call room and neither had she been allowed to stay at the girl’s hostel during her on-call night shifts.
• Clinical tutorials are held in the wards themselves in the absence of demonstration rooms. This causes added discomfort to both the patients and students.
In this context it is important to protect on one hand the quality of education provided to the future doctors of our society as well as to ensure that the futures of these bright young students is protected. The negligence that the West Bengal state government has shown to the development of infrastructure in government medical colleges must be dealt with in a strong hand. However, it is important that the students already enrolled in these colleges should not suffer due to the lackadaisical attitude of the state govt.
Balancing Quality with Demand : In countries like India we must walk a tightrope between the need for more doctors and our capacity to provide quality training to more medical professionals. Quality control must run in parallel with this basic objective of rectifying an abysmal doctor:patient ratio. Given that the government medical colleges play an enormously significant role in providing meritorious students from all social strata with access to medical education, they must be protected at all costs.
Need to Protect Government Medical Colleges : Government colleges also boast of a huge spectrum of patients (clinical cases), which is out of reach to any student studying in the private sector. The qualitative advantage that the large number of patients gives in a government setup over and above a private setup must be given separate importance while determining the parameters for approval of the seats. The sudden disappearance of hundreds of seats from the government medical colleges is a serious setback.
While the West Bengal state government should ensure basic quality of education to all students, it must also ensure that not a single seat is wasted due to unrealistic norms. The widespread malpractices exercised by private medical colleges to obtain MCI approval are already known. While these malpractices cannot be cut down upon, the public and private medical colleges should not be measured against the same parameters. The Union Government and the MCI must also take steps to help build the supportive infrastructure around these seats instead of placing the whole onus on the West Bengal State Government.
SFI protests the abrupt decision to curtail medical seats throwing the future of hundreds of medical aspirants into the dark. We demand that the state government forfeits its whimsical attitude towards education and provide the bare minimum of infrastructural support to its medical colleges. The All India General Secretary of SFI, Ritabrata Banerjee, member of parliament has submitted a deputation to the Union Health Minister, outlining the need to nurture the government medical colleges and protesting the destructive measures that the MCI has resorted to.