New Delhi: Observing that the prestigious AIIMS was overburdened, the government today said it is all set to expand the network of medical colleges in the country even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley pushed for relaxation in medical council and municipal norms to achieve that goal.
The network of medical colleges in the country is set for expansion in a "big" way as the government said it attaches huge importance to the promotion of high-quality tertiary care services and expansion of medical education in the country.
Jaitley, also the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, opined that "over-involvement' in the past had led to "crisis" for AIIMS and asked the Health Ministry to play a supportive role without getting into "micro-management" of the institution.
Noting that the number of medical colleges in the country was "inadequate", he also said at the 43rd Annual Convocation of AIIMS here that a serious review is needed to increase the number of such institutions.
Jaitley also advocated the need for an assessment of the policy of organ donation by studying the best practices around the world.
The finance minister said that India requires more quality institutions and batted for a serious review for developing medical colleges by relaxing municipal and medical council laws.
"We need more medical colleges. Both public and private sector education has expanded. But medical colleges are still inadequate. A review of the policy is required as far as increasing the number of medical schools is concerned," he said.
He noted that India is capable of producing "huge" human talent as one out of every seven patients in the US is treated by a doctor of Indian origin while a large part of British healthcare is managed by Indian doctors.
"We need to expand quality institutions. The restraints on the great hospitals -- unavailability of contiguous land, inability to have medical colleges next to it -- needs a serious review.
"We have ready-made hospitals of excellence which have worked for decades and there is no reason why, by relaxing municipal laws and medical council regulations, we are not able to encourage the expansion of a few hundred more medical colleges in India," he said.
Talking about the aim to expand the network of medical colleges in the country, Health Minister JP Nadda said at the event that, in the first phase, upgrade of 58 district hospitals to medical colleges is proposed while 70 medical colleges are being upgraded by adding super-speciality blocks under various phases of the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) scheme.
"This reflects the importance attached by the government to the promotion of high-quality tertiary care services and expansion of medical education in the country," he said.
Nadda also said at the function that the high degree of social respect for doctors was getting "eroded" due to increasing complaints of rude behaviour and urged medical practitioners to show compassion and kindness while treating patients.
"Doctors as a profession command a very high degree of social respect. However, this exalted position is rapidly getting eroded.
"The increasing number of cases against doctors in the consumer courts, the growing complaints of rude behaviour by doctors at private hospitals, the dissatisfaction expressed by patients over the lack of human touch at general hospitals are issues that need to be addressed," he said at function as AIIMS also marked its Diamond Jubilee year.
Nadda urged doctors to remember the 'Hippocratic Oath' and show compassion and kindness while treating patients. He asked doctors at the convocation to rededicate themselves to the cause of healing the sick and the needy.
Speaking after Nadda, Jaitley said about AIIMS that he has "been a keen observer of the institution".
He said, "It grew through challenges and even crises at times. I wish to recount that one mistake or error which ministry normally makes is to get over-involved with AIIMS. I think this has led to several problems and crises in the past.
"Health Ministry has a great supportive role to play. It has to support and encourage the institution while not getting into the micro-management of it," he stressed.
Pointing to the tenures of recent Union health ministers, the senior BJP leader further said that "to the credit of the present health minister (JP Nadda), his predecessor Harsh Vardhan and his predecessor Ghulam Nabi Azad, three of them deviated from the past practice, not getting involved in the micro-management of AIIMS, and left it to the professionals of the institution".
"That break from the past makes your job easier," he said.
The finance minister termed the growth of good private healthcare institutions a positive development but said that, in the absence of adequate insurance back-up and given the costs involved, only a limited section of the population can avail such treatment.
"Therefore, an institution of this kind (AIIMS) in the public healthcare system needs to be encouraged and nourished. That is why, despite the initial difficulty of availability of adequate faculty, there is this whole idea of having such institutions come up in other parts of the country.
"It is a challenging job, but one which has no option or alternative. Expanding the existing resource that we have in Delhi is a great idea," he said.
Jaitley also announced recognition of AIIMS as an 'Institute of National Eminence' and said 100 per cent tax exemption would be available for any voluntary donation made to the premier institute.