ANBAI hails re-introduction of PG Diploma courses in eight specialties, says it will help rural India tide over specialists crunch

Association of National Board Accredited Institutions (ANBAI), a collaborative network of NBA healthcare institutions on matters of common interest, has welcomed the Gazette notification issued on August 6 by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare introduced post-graduate diploma courses in eight medical specialties under the National Board of Examinations.  In a virtual press briefing ANBAI today (Aug 20), said the reform will dramatically transform and revolutionize healthcare in India. The much needed reform in country’s medical education comes after a three-month exercise by MCI, NBA, union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare and Niti Aayog and blessings of the Prime Minster.

“These Diplomas will make an impactful difference in the shortfall of doctors in these specialities, especially in rural India. No large and busy hospital today can function efficiently without post-graduate students managing patient care. These youngsters are at the frontline, taking care of sick patients with guidance from their seniors. When taluk and district hospitals become vibrant post-graduate training institutions attracting passionate young doctors, the quality of healthcare in small towns will undergo a dramatic transformation,” said a statement issued by ANBAI.

It may be mentioned that these diploma courses which existed earlier were progressively decreased and eventually wound up to increase PG degree seats intake to cope with the demand of teaching faculty in medical colleges. According to Devi Shetty, patron ANBAI, the objective must to make PG degree intake equal to UG seats as is a norm in developed countries. “These countries have actually more PG seats, so that international students are attracted and serve in underserved areas and I am a beneficiary of that.  So, with this step, we’re strengthening rural as well as government healthcare and in next five years, we’ll see its fruits in this country,” he added.   

Every year, approximately 1, 70,000 doctors write the NEET post-graduate exam to apply for about 50,000 post-graduate seats under the Medical Council of India and the National Board of Examinations (this includes 15,000 non clinical seats). This means that, annually, the remaining 1,20,000 doctors who do not get one of these seats will not return to clinical work. They may waste two to five years attending coaching classes in Kerala or Kota and in the end, some even give up on becoming doctors.

Eight Diploma Courses in offing under new arrangement :

Diploma in Obstetrics and Gynaecology;

Diploma in Paediatrics;

Diploma in Anaesthesiology;

Diploma in Tuberculosis and Chest Disease;

Diploma in Radio Diagnosis;

Diploma in Family Medicine;

Diploma in Ophthalmology; and

Diploma in ENT

Adding a few thousand seats in post-graduate diploma courses will immediately bring these doctors back to patient care in accredited government or private hospitals. It also gives them the option to apply for an MD or MS seat after completion of the course. It is an attractive alternative for bright young doctors from poor families, because the diploma course is available at a nominal cost, and they earn a stipend during the program which can be used to support their families.

As the notification and its implementation is still a work in progress, much will depend on the states in creating conditions for roll out of these diplomas in  their district and other hospitals as running these courses requires certain quality parameters and infrastructure provisions.

These are two-year courses that can be undertaken after completing the MBBS degree. According to the regulations, these structured training programs can be run by any well-equipped public or private hospital with over 100 beds and staffed with senior medical specialists.

The kind of specialists India is lacking can be understood by that fact that even though women and children comprise 60% of the population, it has one of the worst maternal and infant mortality rates in the world.  We need gynaecologists, paediatricians, family physicians, anaesthesiologists, and radiologists to take care of women’s and children’s health. Most public hospitals, especially in tier 2 and tier 3 towns, suffer an 80% shortage in the availability of these medical specialists. If those hospitals introduce diploma training courses in all these specialities, the shortfall of medical specialists can be completely made up in two to four years.