Docs get lakhs to pose as faculty at Medical Council of India checks
A senior doctor can reportedly earn as much as Rs 5-6 lakh within a couple of days just for showing up for a medical college inspection and pretending to be a faculty member. Inspections by teams from the Medical Council of India (MCI) for increasing the number of seats in a medical college, renewing its recognition or establishing a new one have been the subject of several court cases and CBI investigations for more than a decade. Yet, nothing seems to have changed as a senior doctor narrated to TOI how he was recently approached by a private medical college in Uttar Pradesh offering several lakhs to be on their faculty list during an inspection.
A look at the CBI chargesheets and investigation into various cases from 2001 onwards shows that everything from leaking information about the so-called surprise MCI inspection to the concerned college, fixing inspections by selecting inspectors who will write the final report to buying faculty, residents and patients to fulfill the criteria for getting recognition have been resorted to. Things appear to have changed little today.
According to Dr Mukul Kapoor, director of anaesthesia in Saket City Hospital, he was made an offer of Rs 5 lakh just to be present for the two days of the MCI inspection. "Within a few days, a senior person from the college called me upping the offer to Rs 6 lakh. I am an MCI recognized PG teacher now working in a non-teaching hospital, and so I get regular telephonic offers to come as ghost faculty (professor) for two days of the MCI inspection. I have kept away from the temptation," said Dr Kapoor.
Just last month, Dr Kapoor received a mail from a so-called medical executive search firm regarding "urgent requirement of doctors for MCI inspection in Ghaziabad". They were looking for senior residents and assistant professors in anaesthesia at the rate of Rs 15,000 per day for senior residents and Rs 20,000 per day for assistant professors, specifically for two days. "Obviously, the medical college knew in advance about the so-called 'surprise inspection' and was getting ready to place bogus faculty through these consultants. So they have been tipped off from within the MCI system. The fraud positioning of faculty and personnel has become such an open corruption that they are not even scared of sending such emails," said Dr Kapoor, who immediately forwarded the email to the health minister and his PA before the inspection date. He got no response from the ministry.
Dr Ramesh Reddy, an MCI member from Andhra Pradesh, confirms the role of such consultancies. "There are several consultancies that are into identifying and approaching doctors who can be hired as ghost faculty. Doctors known to me who received messages from such companies had forwarded them to me and I had sent them to the president of MCI asking her to take action. Nothing has been done so far," said Dr Reddy. He had even made several suggestions to the MCI president to plug loopholes in the current system of inspections.
"Colleges submit Form-16 as proof that doctors are on their payroll and that they have deducted tax at source. But Form 16 is the biggest fraud as it is just generated by the college for the purpose of inspection, signed by the principal and handed over to the inspectors. It is defrauding both the Income Tax (IT) department as well as MCI," explained Dr Reddy. The way around this is make it mandatory to submit Form 26 AS, which is downloaded from the income tax website and shows the person's TDS for that financial year, which would be more fool proof, said Dr Reddy adding that if the authorities were serious about cracking down there would be a joint investigation involving the IT department and vigilance commission.
Dr Reddy pointed out that there were also fake residential proofs submitted for inspections, merely letters from college principals saying that a faculty member or resident doctor lived in a particular guest house or residential quarter. "Why don't they insist on an Aadhaar card or passport as residential proof when it is known that there have been so many cases of faking the proofs?" said Dr Reddy.
According to Dr Kapoor, who used to take part in inspections around 2009-10 when he was working at the R&R Army Hospital, the person designated as coordinator held the key to the inspection. "The other doctors who go along merely fill the pro forma. It is coordinators who give the final report and it is they who determine what kind of a report is submitted. Two days are hardly enough to do a thorough check, as we have literally two trunks of documents to be checked," said Dr Kapoor, adding that financial gain was the reason for many doctors from one particular college or region going on inspections repeatedly.
"We dealt with many such cases of both private and government doctors making money by posing as faculty when I was in the ethics committee in the MCI in 2012 before the current reconstituted council took over. This is absolutely unethical and unacceptable," said Dr Rama Baru, professor of Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health in JNU.