To overcome the shortage of qualified doctors, the Central government has increased the ceiling on MBBS seats in a government medical college from 150 to 250, provided the hospital has a bed capacity of 1,000 or more.

The increase in the ceiling will come into effect in the 2011-12 academic session. “But the raise in the ceiling is not automatic; it is subject to verification of infrastructure and human resource,” Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told TheHindu.

Thanks to the decision, the intake in the 37 government medical colleges across the country will go up by 3,700 seats a year. The private sector colleges can increase the intake in the next academic session.

Mr. Azad said the Ministry was awaiting the response of the corporate sector to its proposal of corporate houses opening medical colleges. If corporate houses, including big hospitals, showed interest in opening medical colleges, the number of seats at the entry point would go up. The response would be known in August when applications were due for grant of permission to set up colleges or enhance the number of seats.

“I will also be writing to the State governments to enhance the retirement age of the faculty in medical colleges to overcome the shortage of teachers. The retirement age in the Central government institutions has already been raised to 65 years, while in a majority of the States the limit is 58 years. In Kerala, it is the lowest, at 55 years,” Mr. Azad said.

Besides rolling out a plan for adding 10,000 postgraduate seats in phases, the Ministry has relaxed the norms for the medical colleges to apply for postgraduate seats. The colleges can now apply for postgraduate courses in the third year of their existence. Earlier, they could apply only after five years. Of the 10,000 postgraduate seats, 4,000 were added, while the rest would be created in the coming years.

High on the Ministry's agenda is the setting up of one national and eight regional institutes of paramedical sciences. The institutes would cost close to Rs. 1,000 crore and turn out 10,000 more paramedical staff every year.