Fascination for foreign medical degrees coupled with big bucks has always been a strong motivation for Indian students. Today, a larger chunk is opting for greener pastures abroad just out of necessity. Ever rising capitation fee for medical colleges in India and lack of proper health care infrastructure are some of the many issues agitating the minds of our students and medical fraternity today.
R.M.S. Atwal talks to Dr Balraj Gupta, a well-known Jalandhar cardiologist, who threw light on the current medical education scenario in the country and also suggested some remedial measures.
"While medical education is much cheaper abroad for our students, medical care is much cheaper for foreigners here thanks to medical tourism," according to Dr Gupta.
Excerpts from the interview:
Why do you think Indian medical students are flocking abroad for higher studies and what actually is ailing our medical education?
The medical education scenario in India is undergoing a sea-change today. Earlier there were few medical colleges but abundance of staff, beds and resources. Of late, the Medical Council of India, the regulatory body for medical education in the country, has eased its norms. Consequently, many private players have entered the (medical) field. Setting up a medical college is akin to setting up a degree college. No doubt there are norms but they are just reduced to formalities. There are many medical colleges which have come up which neither have the staff nor the infrastructure, or even patients!
I fail to understand, what the government is doing. Today, if you want your ward to be admitted into a medical college, all you require is not the calibre, not the intelligence but just the green bucks. Given these circumstances, since the population and health awareness are increasing, there is a need for more doctors. That's why when there is a demand there is going to be supply. At the same time, private medical colleges have hiked the capitation fee to three to four million rupees.
In contrast, universities abroad are offering medical courses for less than a million rupees which a student can pay in installments. So, Indian parents feel much better by exposing their children to foreign medical education and western lifestyle. Moreover, they have opportunities to settle down in those countries.
Foreign medical degrees have always been an attraction for our students. What are the current preferred destinations?
True. But, honestly speaking, foreign educated Indians are not looked up to well by the medical fraternity over here. The perception remains that just because s/he could not get an admission in any of the medical colleges in India, s/he had gone abroad for medical education. I don't say they are not good doctors but at the same time for practicing in India you don't require any degree.
For ten certified doctors there are ten times more quacks in villages and towns, and even in metros. My perception is, if a doctor is good it is not difficult for him to establish himself either in India or abroad.
Today, not many people are going to the US for medical education. In fact, it is the other way round; people are coming here from the US for their medical education because it is cheap and best. On top of that it is less time-consuming. Over there, to start a medical education, you need to be a graduate first. If you are an Indian MBBS you are at a par with the medical graduate of the US. I can say, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Russian bloc countries, Kosovo, Belarus are the best for medical education today... China too has emerged as a very big destination but lack of English is the basic stumbling block for our students there.
How about England? Traditionally, Indians have been going there for higher medical degrees?
Not any more, though all my teachers were educated in the UK. Today, the US is the leader because of its large health care apparatus and enormous resources. 90 per cent of all fresh developments are happening in America. So, if a doctor has to keep himself abreast with the latest education and training he usually prefers the US. Otherwise Australia and New Zealand remain hot destinations especially for higher specializations.
Medical tourism is very much in these days. How is it benefiting us?
I am happy that you have raised this pertinent issue. Medical tourism is not only in but it is something which we have not exploited fully yet. I am sure with corporate hospitals coming up, it is going to gain momentum. India can benefit tremendously from medical tourism because, one, we have very good and competent doctors here, two, our doctors are much better than their western counterparts. We are second to none, not even to US doctors.
This medical tourism is something really amazing. Imagine a person coming from the US, who doesn't have any (medical) insurance, where he has to pay US $40,000 for a surgery. Whereas in India he has to pay less than one-tenth... today all eyes are on India and China which are fast emerging as economic powers. Medical tourism can be a great boon to the Indian economy if other 'vendors' like the hospitality industry too joins in.