January 13, 2024

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Aadhaar-based biometric system hints at severe staff crunch in medical colleges | India News

4 min read

The National Medical Commission (NMC) last month sent notices to nearly half of the medical colleges in India for failing to maintain at least 75% attendance of faculty members over a three-month period, with states that have low density of medical colleges reporting some of the highest shortfall in attendance.

Sources in the apex medical education regulator said the shortage in attendance reported on the online Aadhaar-based biometric system is most likely because of shortage in faculty itself.

“It has been made mandatory for faculty members to mark the attendance online. While the provisions were there since 2020, it started being enforced last year onwards. If the colleges had faculty, why would they not mark the attendance. Almost all the shortfall in attendance is because the colleges do not have requisite faculty members,” said the official.

If there is an actual shortfall in the number of faculty members, colleges will face a tough time fulfilling the deficiency.

“All the medical colleges are hereby informed that they must…fulfill the requirements accordingly, at their earliest. In the absence of these requirements or deficiency in any of the fields…admissions for the Academic Year 2024-25 shall not be allowed,” the NMC notice read.

Festive offer

This is the second year in a row that NMC has sent a slew of notices to hundreds of colleges. However, all but nine private colleges were granted permission to admit students after appeal. While these nine medical colleges still figure on the list of colleges with deficiencies, according to another NMC member, other colleges which were permitted to take in students last year also didn’t fulfill the requirements.

“Most of the colleges were allowed to admit students on appeal. Otherwise, the entire medical education sector would have collapsed. There is no government college in the country where the deficiency is less than 25% to 30% – NMC provisions allow only for a shortfall of 10% – meaning these colleges should technically be closed. The situation is worse in state medical colleges,” said an NMC member.

States with deficiencies

In states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Punjab where the density of medical colleges continue to remain low, notices were sent to more than half the existing colleges. The highest proportion was in Uttar Pradesh where 56 of the 68 medical colleges were sent notices. Uttar Pradesh was also the state where several medical colleges did not have attendance for almost the entire staff.

In Madhya Pradesh, 20 of the 27 medical colleges, including reputable government medical colleges such as Gandhi Medical College, Bhopal, and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College, Jabalpur, were sent notices. In Jharkhand, six of the nine medical colleges were sent notices and in Punjab eight of the 12 were.

More than half the colleges were sent notices even in states such as Karnataka and Kerala that have a high density of medical colleges.

Shortfall in government, non-clinical departments

There were almost similar numbers of government and private medical colleges that were sent notices, however, the deficiencies were more pervasive in the government colleges, according to the analysis of data from 32 of these colleges at random. Most of the deficiencies were also seen in non-clinical departments such as anatomy, pharmacology, and forensic medicine.

One of the reasons the government allowed zero percentile for admission to postgraduate courses this year was to ensure that students take up these non-clinical subjects and become professors later. There were also deficiencies in clinical departments such as dermatology and radio-diagnosis. According to experts, recruiting to radiology has always been a problem for medical colleges, as people prefer practicing rather than becoming a professor.

Gaining and retaining faculty

The shortage of faculty members has become acute with the sharp increase in medical seats – the number of MBBS seats has almost doubled over the last decade. A doctor, who has served as a dean in a government medical college as well as a VC in a private one, said, “The shortage is more severe in the government system because several of the rules are very restrictive. There is a need to free up say general duty doctors and medical officers for the post of professors. There is a need to increase the age of retirement or upper age limit for various posts in the interim. Changing such rules will allow for more doctors to come into the newly opened medical colleges.”

Citing an example, the doctor said that since 2013 – around the same time when the number of colleges started increasing – there has been a requirement for professors to have published papers. Most clinical practitioners might not be able to fulfill this requirement.

The doctor said: “The disparity in pay, say between a state medical college and an AIIMS in the same state, leads to some of the colleges being left without any faculty. At present, the salary at AIIMS is nearly double of what many state government’s pay. This leads to a severe shortage in these state medical colleges.”

With problems of ghost faculty or faculty being transferred between colleges during NMC inspections, the apex medical education regulator has said they will depend more on the Aadhaar-based system to ensure year-round availability of faculty members in the medical colleges.

“The plan is to completely switch to the online system – with data from the cameras and hospital management system – ensuring proper work throughout the year. Physical inspections would need to be conducted only when these requirements are not fulfilled or when there is a complaint. But, this will take some time,” said the first official quoted.

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