In a move aimed at bridging healthcare needs, the government is planning to allow private healthcare players and profit-making bodies to set up medical colleges. The government may also relax the existing regulations to facilitate their entry. Speaking at a FICCI healthcare event, health secretary Naresh Dayal said: “The government had decided to allow corporate entities to set up medical colleges, for which land acquisition norms will be relaxed. The government will also encourage public-private partnerships with government hospitals in fostering healthcare.” At present, there are strict guidelines issued by the Medical Council of India, Indian Nursing Council, Indian Dental Council and Indian Pharmacology Council. One of these guidelines states that only the government or a non-profit body can set up a medical education centre. The move could benefit major healthcare players such as Fortis Healthcare, Apollo Hospitals and Hinduja Group, who have chalked out ambitious plans to set up medical education hubs. Fortis alone plans to set up 10 medicities, each costing around Rs 800 crore. Currently, India has 0.86 beds for every thousand patients, one of the lowest in the world, according to an Ernst & Young report. According to the Planning Commission report, India was short by six lakh doctors, 10 lakh nurses and two lakh dental surgeons in 2007. Deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said one of the ways to fill this shaft is to leverage the existing infrastructure of public sector through the public-private partnership (PPP). “PPP will improve the healthcare services by bringing competition and efficiency in government hospitals,” he said. The government also expects to complete the roll out of the Rajiv Arogya Sri, a health insurance programme for the poor in the next 3-4 years. When completed, the programme will cover $300 million people below the poverty line (BPL) in the country.