Manpower crunch could hurt Assam plan for 15 more medical colleges

Manpower crunch could hurt Assam plan for 15 more medical colleges

The Assam government has decided to raise the retirement age of faculty at medical colleges from 65 years to 70 to ease the shortage of faculty members

The Dhubri Medical College, Assam’s 9th government-run medical college, will start classes from this year. (Twitter/keshab_mahanta)

GUWAHATI: The Assam government, which has targeted opening 15 new government medical colleges over the next 3-4 years, could face a tough job recruiting faculty members for the new institutes.

“At present, we have around 2,000 faculty members in the 9 existing medical colleges and in the next 3-4 years, the requirement would be double that figure once the new colleges start functioning.” Dr Anup Kumar Barman, director of Assam’s Medical Education department, said.

Dr Barman said the government needed about 90 faculty members to start a new medical college. “In the next 4-5 years, the requirement goes up to around 150 faculty members,” he said.

But the senior official said the government was taking steps and “the recruitment process for new faculty is continuously on”.

On August 19, chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma-led cabinet decided to increase the retirement age of faculty members of government medical colleges from the existing 65 years to 70 years to “augment availability of experienced doctors for educational and medical service”. The National Medical Commission regulations cap the upper age limit of the faculty at 70.

Dr Barman explained: “Because we are in need of faculty members and can’t produce them overnight, we suggested to the government to increase the retirement age of existing faculty members of medical colleges in the state from the present 65 years to 70 years”.

“When we set up new medical colleges, getting adequate faculty can be a problem, but it’s not an issue specific to Assam or India as it is a global concern. At present, we have a dearth of faculty members in several subjects. An increase in the retirement age to 70 years will give us an immediate benefit,” he added.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), however, cautioned that this will not be a long-term solution.

“A retirement is set as a person’s productivity goes down at a certain age. A 70-year-old doctor, engineer or any other professional would be less productive than someone who’s in their 30s,” said Dr Satyajit Borah, president of the Assam branch of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Dr Borah underlined that a faculty member at a medical college doesn’t just take classes but also attends to patients, conducts surgeries and is involved in other administrative work that can be tiring for someone at an advanced age.

According to IMA-Assam, the state government needs to look at why new doctors don’t join government medical colleges and instead, search for better prospects at private hospitals or medical colleges.

“There have been several instances of good faculty members leaving government medical colleges. This needs to be looked into,” said Dr Borah.

“The decision to increase retirement age is a short team solution to overcome the manpower shortage crisis. But in the long term, the state government should look at ways to ensure that more faculty members join medical colleges and the state is able to retain them,” he added.

In a statement on Saturday, IMA-Assam welcomed the move to set up more medical colleges but expressed concern that the move could be futile if there aren’t enough faculty members, which in turn will impact the quality of education to medical students.

To complete its target of 24 medical colleges, the state government has already requested the National Medical Commission (NMC) for permission to start 3 medical colleges at Kokrajhar, Nalbari and Nagaon by next year.

Four additional colleges are under construction at Tinsukia, Biswanath, Charaideo and Guwahati (the 2nd one in the city) and preliminary work is on for five more at Tamulpur, Bongaigaon, Morigaon, Dhemaji and Golaghat. Three more at Goalpara, Sibsagar and Karimganj are in pipeline.

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