The National Medical Commission’s (NMC) decision to limit the number of medical colleges and medical seats in each state is not in the interest of public health and health education. It is wrong and discriminatory too, as it will work against southern states and adversely affect their medical education needs and goals. The NMC’s recent guidelines cap the number of MBBS seats in medical colleges on the basis of a ratio of 100 MBBS seats for every 10 lakh population in each state. The NMC, which oversees medical education, has done a disservice to its own cause with the restriction. Its argument is that medical education should spread geographically and all states should have access to it. It has stated that there is considerable disparity in the availability of doctors between regions and it expects to reduce this by stopping the expansion of medical education in states where it thinks there are enough medical seats.
This is perverse logic because medical education is not a zero sum game. It is not known how medical education in some states can be promoted by stopping other states from starting new colleges or increasing medical seats. Why should the number of medical graduates be restricted in some states when there is free movement of medical professionals across the country? Priority may be given to setting up new medical colleges in states where there are fewer doctors, but there is no sense in imposing a ceiling on other states. Such a restraint can only affect the overall availability of doctors and provision of medical facilities in the country. If there is concern over the quality of education because of the proliferation of colleges, the NMC has all the means at its disposal to ensure that the best standards are maintained. That is its main purpose.
The regulation will hit the southern states which have a large number of medical colleges and a developed medical education sector. All the southern states will have to freeze their medical education at the present levels even if they want to improve their ratio of doctors to the population. These states want all their districts to have at least one medical college to cater better to the people’s needs, but they will not be allowed to set them up. There is need for more medical seats and more seats for specialities in the southern states. They have rightly protested against the NMC move. The impression is that southern states are being penalised for the non-performance of northern states. The North does not lose anything, but only gains when there are more colleges in the South. The NMC should withdraw the notification.
(Published 29 October 2023, 22:24 IST)