Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Andaman Medical College – A tough dream to achieve

Port Blair, May 1: Finally as the ball starts rolling to achieve the long pending dream of having Andaman’s very own Medical College, there seems to be a predicament now, posing questions on very need of having one. One such major question that it poses is, ‘A Medical College at the cost of what’.

Following the directions of the Lt. Governor AK Singh to give shape to the long pending dream of the Islanders in a time bound manner, the Andaman & Nicobar Administration formed a Society under the Directorate of Health Services called ‘Andaman Nicobar Islands Medical Education & Research Society’ (ANIMERS) which is to function under the chairmanship of the Chief Secretary. The Society is now carrying out the tasks to re-locate the existing buildings required for starting the Medical College by July, 2005; to revise the Project Report; to get Environmental Clearance for the proposed medical college site at Dudh Line; and to explore provision for Grant-in-Aid for establishment of Medical College.

A welcome step though, reliable sources inform that the ANIMERS has taken a decision to alter the existing AYUSH building and convert it into a Medical College. This is being done as a stop gap arrangement. When the permanent structure of Medical College is completed at proposed site at Dudh Line within a stipulated time period of 3 years, AYUSH building will be returned back.

“Development of Allopathic Medical Education should not be done in haste without proper infrastructures. It should be done properly in the designated land with regular faculties as per MCI norms”, said an AYUSH physician who is concerned about the setback AYUSH would have with the present decision.

As per the MCI regulations the hospital, college building including library and hostels for the students/ interns, PGs/Residents and nurses shall be in Unitary Piece of Land, which shall not be less than 10 acres. Other facilities can be housed in another piece of land but the total pieces shall not be more than two and there should be proper landscaping.

“Nothing has been done so far in the proposed site for construction of building and the Administration is now trying to start the MBBS class in makeshift locations without appointment of regular faculties and other facilities as per MCI Regulation Norms”.

“If the Medical College is started without the required setups, facilities and faculties within one campus, much time will be wasted for shunting students and teachers from one place to other. This would adversely affect the study hours and knowledge of the students coming out as a doctor, and would be equally disastrous for the Health of the people at large”, expressed the concerned AYUSH physician, not willing his name to be disclosed.

He further expressed that when the 1st MBBS course starts in the next academic year, there must be an undertaking and assurance to the students and parents that all the facilities will be provided as per the MCI Norms for the first batch onwards throughout its 5 ½ years programme. It should also ensure that the students will not be deprived-off from any of the required facilities as per MCI Norms and recognition. This is to ensure that at the end a medical graduate is professionally well qualified and competent to take care of the health of the people.

There are hundreds of professional colleges in India where students are admitted in mechanical manner without having slightest regard to the availability of infrastructure, teaching facility or their financial resources. This has been affecting the future of the students who enrol in such institutions. It is because of this that different Councils have been setup to monitor the institutions, asking for compliance. In many cases the recognitions are either not granted or withdrawn.

Meanwhile, experts in the field of Allopathy too have raised suspicion on the stop gap arrangements for the proposed Medical College. One such expert said, “Having a medical college may not improve the health care standards in the islands. There are atleast 50 posts of Specialists in G.B. Pant Hospital out of which hardly eight are filled. If the Administration is really concerned about the islanders, it should try to fill up atleast 25% of the vacant post.”

Another issue that strikes when it comes to improvement of health care at Andaman’s only referral hospital, the G.B. Pant is that the existing Specialists are quitting their jobs. Many have started their own Hospitals/ Clinics and few have left the islands for a better future. Commenting on this, the expert said, “If we wish to retain specialists, they should be allowed private practice in addition to their duties. While few doctors under contract at GB Pant have been practising in private, only few remain who are determined to serve, even though with a meagre salary fixed as per the UPSC standards.” 

Now as the ball rolls and development projects come out of closed cupboards including that of Andaman’s very own Medical College, the situation demands that no such hasty decisions are taken that would have adverse impact in future. As the proverb goes, ‘A stitch in time saves nine’; it would be wise on the part of the ANI Administration to rethink on setting right existing lacunas before committing on to new projects.