NITI Aayog consultation on medical colleges in PPP model on January 21

Published : January 02, 2020 18:04 IST

Inside a district hospital in Telangana. A file picture. Photo: Singam Venkataramana

The NITI Aayog has announced a “stakeholder’s meet” in New Delhi on January 21, to go forward with its decision to set up medical colleges adopting the public-private partnership model in all districts in the country.

“India has a dire shortage of qualified doctors. It is practically not possible for the Central/State Government to bridge the gaps in the medical education with their limited resources and finances. This necessitates formulating a Public Private Partnership (“PPP”) model by combining the strengths of public and private sectors. Accordingly, a scheme to link new and/or existing private medical colleges with functional District Hospitals through PPP would augment medical seats and also rationalise the costs of medical education,” says a consultation note released ahead of the January 21 meet.

Public health experts decried the move as “retrograde”. “To encourage setting up of a medical college hospital why should government district hospitals be handed over to a private entity,” asked an expert who did not want to be named. “What is the point of producing doctors who have paid huge money as capitation fee? Won’t their only interest be in recouping that money invested,” asked another expert.

NITI Aayog claims that it has “developed the ‘Concession Agreement Guiding Principles for Setting up Medical Colleges through PPP’”. It said: “The said Concession Agreement has been developed based on the international best practices, and similar PPP arrangements that are operative in the States of Gujarat and Karnataka. Under this envisioned model, the Concessionaire shall design, build, finance, operate and maintain the medical college and also upgrade, operate and maintain the associated District Hospital with a minimum annual student intake of 150 MBBS seats.”

One public health expert who has interacted with the institution says that NITI Aayog and some institutions are run by “superficial public policy types and consultants from chosen private entities”. These experts have been caught on the wrong foot more often than not, and the private consultants have their agendas to advance, he added.

As of now, stakeholders can provide their written comments by January 10.

Writing in Newsclick in 2016, the public health expert Amit Sengupta, who passed away in 2018, said: “It is widely acknowledged that the mushrooming of private medical colleges in India has been the principal corrupting influence on medical education in India, and has been responsible for a steep deterioration in the standards of medical education… The logical lesson that could and should have been drawn is that the policy of encouraging private medical colleges, both through diminishing investment in public funded medical education and through regulations designed to facilitate private colleges, needs to be reversed. Instead, the Niti Aayog has made a startling recommendation that can only facilitate deeper penetration of a corrupt private sector driven system of medical education.”

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