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Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh: Surging ahead in Medical Education

Dr. Yashpal Sharma :

The foundation of an effective healthcare delivery system lies in its competent and properly trained human resources.  With a population of 1.3 billion people to cater to, the Indian Medical Education System is one of the largest in the world. The past few years have also witnessed rapid advances in this field.  The Government of India has effectively taken steps to achieve the goal of improving the doctor-patient ratio both in terms of quantity (increasing admission) and quality (better training of medical students).

The National Medical Commission Act, 2019 has been enacted under which a National Medical Commission will be constituted in place of Medical Council of India. This will go in a long way in overhauling the quality of medical education and bringing it at par with the international standards. A uniform entrance examination namely National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has been introduced alongwith provisions for common counseling for admission to UG / PG Medical and Dental courses This will promote merit and transparency in admission process, thereby attracting the best of talent.  Further, 158 new medical colleges have been opened in the last six years and MBBS seats have been increased from 51,112 in 2014 to 80,312 in 2019(a growth of 57%) and PG seats by 23,903 (i.e.79%) – from 30,191(2014) to about 54,094 (2020). Besides, under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for establishment of new Medical Colleges, establishment of 157 new Medical Colleges have been planned, out of which, 43 have already become functional. These measures are accelerating improved access to tertiary care and expansion of Medical Education in underserved areas.

The Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh have also benefitted a lot from these efforts. This article touches upon a few of these measures.

The Central Government in its endeavour to promote Medical Education in the Hilly areas and the Special States has been assisting the State Government of Jammu & Kashmir (presently UTs of J&K and Ladakh) for improvement in Medical Education Infrastructure. The Union territories of J&K and Ladakh with a population of nearly 1.25 crores had only 4 Medical Colleges (03 Govt and 01 private) till uptothe year 2018-19, thereby managing to train merely 500 MBBS students every year.A number of meritorious students from the UTs had to seek admissions in other Medical Institutions across India and even abroad.

The introduction of the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) for “Establishment of new Medical Colleges attached with existing district/referral hospital” of has been a game changer in the State.

The Scheme:

To meet the shortfall of human resource in health, the Government initiated a Scheme for “establishment of new Medical Colleges by upgrading district/referral hospitals” preferably in underserved districts of the country with fund sharing between the Central Government and States in the ratio of 90:10 for North East/Special Category states and 75:25 for other States. By opening new Government Medical Colleges by attaching existing district/referral hospitals, a substantial number of MBBS seats are being increased, thereby making Medical Education affordable in the country and mitigating shortage of doctors with respect to the population and distribution of the human resources across the country.

Union Territory of J&K

Undergraduate Medical Education:

Under the scheme, the state government has been sanctioned with 7 new medical colleges. As per the special state dispensation, 90% funding with respect to the scheme is provided by the central government.In Phase–I,five Medical Colleges were sanctioned at Anantnag, Baramulla, Doda, Kathua and Rajouri. Out of these, four Medical Colleges (Anantnag, Rajouri, Kathua and Baramulla) have already started functioning since 2019-20, adding 400 additional MBBS seats. The Medical College at Dodais also likely to become functional shortly. Besides these, two more Medical Colleges at Udhampur and Handwara (Kupwara) have been sanctioned by the Government in the ongoing Phase III of the Scheme. A new Medical College at Leh has also been sanctioned under the scheme, providing the Union Territory of Ladakh its first Medical College, with 100 seats.

At present, one Private Medical College and seven Government Medical Colleges are functional in Jammu & Kashmir, with a total intake capacity of 985 seats. Out of the seven Government Medical Colleges, four have been established under the above said Central Scheme. After theremaining three Medical Colleges approved in the Scheme become functional, the total number of undergraduate MBBS seats in Jammu & Kashmir would increase by another 300 seats.

Besides this, two new AIIMS have also been established in UT, one each at Vijaypur, Samba and Awantipura, Pulwama.The MBBS classes for AIIMS, Vijaypur are likely to start in the year 2020-21.

Post Graduate Medical Education:

In order to improve the Post Graduate Medical Education, the Government has been providing an incentive of Rs 1.20 Crore per seat, of which 90 percent is provided as Central Share.  The UT was allocated additional PG seats in Medical Colleges Jammu / Srinagar and SKIMS Bemina, Srinagar under the Scheme. With such initiatives, the number of PG seats in the UT has nearly doubled from 289 seats in 2013-14 to 568 seats in 2019-20. In addition to this, 51 Diploma seats have been converted into Degree seats thereby increasing the number of trained specialists in the state.

Besides these, the National Board of Examination, with a mandate for rapid expansion of DNB program, has added nearly 50 seats in Jammu & Kashmir in the last three years.

The efforts of Government over the past years have been bearing considerable fruits. Similar reforms are underway in the other sectors suchas Nursing Education, Dental Educationandalliedandhealthcareprofessions. The Government has approved the introduction of a new law for a regulatory body for all the allied and healthcare professionals called ‘The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill’. This will be introduced in the Parliament in the forthcoming sessions.

Needless to say, these efforts at improving both the quality and quantity of healthcare professionals will go a long way in improving healthcare service delivery in the UTs of Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. These steps are important stepping stones to promote better health and well being of our people and also to train more productive workforce.

By:Dr Yashpal Sharma MBBS, MHA (AIIMS New Delhi) Director Coordination New Medical Colleges and MD JK Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd

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