Check on your doctor before check-up, 1 in 5 via management quota

Before you visit a new doctor, it may be a good idea to check where he got his medical degree and whether he was part of the college's 'management quota'. 

With the Supreme Court striking down the common entrance exam for medical colleges, patients face the growing prospect of being treated by doctors whose merit may not have been adequately tested. 

With the creation of more and more private medical colleges, many experts apprehend that students will increasingly buy their way into becoming doctors from such colleges, many of which are notorious for their lack of teaching and training infrastructure. 

Students in private medical colleges do not have to face any centralized external exam to get their degrees. Those exams too are conducted internally, most often by private universities or so-called deemed universities that run medical colleges. 

Back-of-the-envelope calculations show that about one out of every five doctors passing out each year, or around 8,000, could be those who effectively bought seats in medical colleges. The consequences for public health are fairly obvious. 

Going strictly by what is allowed under existing rules, approximately 15% of seats in private medical colleges across the country are in what is called the management quota. This term is widely recognized as a euphemism for seats available to those who can pay for the privilege. 

Estimates of exactly how much a seat costs vary, but the amount could be Rs 30-90 lakh, depending on the location of the college, its reputation and the timing of the seat booking. 

Currently, over 25,000 seats for medical graduate admission are in private medical colleges compared to just over 20,000 seats in government medical colleges. The 15% kept aside for the management quota amounts to 3,750 seats. However, the actual management quota is usually way higher than 15%. It could go up to a third of the seats, or in some cases, even over half the seats in a private medical college. Even a conservative third of the seats being sold as management quota would mean that over 8,000 seats are being sold. 

In a scam uncovered in Bangalore, it was found that qualified people were employed to write the entrance exams and such proxy students after getting allotment of medical seats through counselling would surrender the seat leaving it available to the management to allot at its discretion, which it would do in return for as much as Rs 75 lakh to Rs 90 lakh. This, according to several admission agents, is still a common practice. 

All the money for booking the seat is collected in black and seats are booked as early as December of the year before the year of admission, way before any entrance exam is held. Of course, they stipulate that the admission is on the condition that the student gets 50% in class XII. 

"With increasing variation in the quality of medical education and the unearthing of seat selling scams, we might need an exam for all medical graduates to test and certify their level of knowledge before they are to allowed to practice -- something similar to the exam that foreign medial graduates have to clear to be allowed to practice here. Such a proposal had been made before," said Dr Bipin Batra, executive director of the National Board of Examinations, which conducts the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for post-graduate medical education and the examination for FMGs. 

On grounds of bridging the shortage of doctors in India, the Medical Council of India has been approving the creation of more medical colleges and expanding the number of medical seats. Out of the 2,400 fresh MBBS seats created last year in 20 new medical colleges, nine colleges were government-run, while 11 were private.

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