Health Policy

Docs with foreign PG set to get govt’s nod

In a bid to allow Indian doctors practising abroad to return and plug the acute shortage in healthcare back home, the government may soon recognize postgraduate medical degrees of 10 foreign countries. Degrees from France, Germany, Russia, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Italy, Singapore, South Africa and Spain are under consideration, which will allow Indian doctors settled in these countries to return home and practise without even a physical verification, health ministry officials said. The move was aimed at reducing the country’s shortage of trained doctors, especially in super speciality disciplines, they said. So far, doctors who had completed MBBS from a recognized university in India and completed the PG degree from any of these countries were unable to return and practise in India as their PG degrees were not recognized. The intention also comes four months after the ministry allowed Indian doctors with PG degrees from UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand to return and practise in India in any public or private hospital. The ministry is also working on amending the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, to allow Indian doctors returning home from these 15 countries to automatically become a faculty member of a medical college, if they want to teach under-graduate students. So far, India recognized the PG degree of a foreign country only as a reciprocal gesture, limiting the bracket to Ireland, Bangladesh and Nepal which recognized Indian degrees. However, the shortage of both doctors and faculty has made the health ministry reconsider the rule. “In March, we opened the door for doctors with PG degrees from five countries to return and practise in India. Now, we are planning to do the same from 10 other countries,” a health ministry official said. He added, “We are setting up an expert committee which will visit these 10 countries, study their medical education curriculum, course duration and see how students pursuing PG medical degrees. If they are found to be on a par with global standards, we hope to recognize their PG degrees within the next few months”. Experts say India is increasing its number of PG seats and medical institutes offering PG degrees. Six new AIIMS-like institutions are coming up. All these will require specialized faculty which can’t be generated from the present pool. “That’s why we are trying to remove all barriers for Indian doctors to return. We expect many to come on sabbaticals for a short stint in teaching or even practise in hospitals. At present, India has one doctor per 1,634 people. In rural India, nearly 67% of doctors who are enrolled remain absent from duty,” an official said. According to Health Minister A Ramadoss, Indian doctors have till now preferred to serve the American poor. He said recently, “Don’t desert your country and settle abroad. Although some reversal of the brain drain process has started, it continues. Not only are they the largest single group of foreign doctors in the US from India, one estimate is that about 75% of doctors in the medically under-served areas of US are from India alone.”


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