The departments of Finance and Health and Family Welfare have opposed the Medical Education Department’s proposal to start seven new medical colleges in the State on the grounds that it has not been well conceived and would be a drain on the State’s exchequer.

The Cabinet recently approved the new colleges to be set up in Kodagu, Chitradurga,Tumkur, Chamarajanagar, Gadag, Haveri and Koppal. Recommending that the proposal be dropped, the departments of Health and Finance have submitted their objections in writing to the government. Copies of these documents are with The Hindu.

The Finance Department, in a note to the Cabinet, said the new colleges would, to start with, burden the government financially to the extent of at least Rs. 1,050 crore. The money would have to be diverted from more important development programmes already budgeted for other departments, the note said.

Violation

The Health Department on the other hand has accused the Medical Education Department of violating the Karnataka Government (Transaction of Business) Rules by not getting the opinion of other concerned departments before bringing the matter before the Cabinet.

The plan for the new colleges has also stirred a hornet’s nest amongst doctors working in the Health Department. While the doctors in the district hospitals will benefit, those in the subordinate taluk hospitals will suffer stagnation as their promotions will get stalled, they feel.

This is because the district hospitals will move out of the ambit of the Health Department and get attached to the new colleges, thus coming under the Medical Education department.

A precedence has already been set in the six new medical colleges started in 2007. In the case of these colleges, the doctors of the hospitals that have been attached have benefitted. But doctors working in the taluk hospitals have found that they have no chance of moving to the district hospitals.

Further, in the case of these six hospitals, the Medical Education Department had promised to return them to the Health Department in three years. But until now, that has not happened.

More importantly, these six colleges are short-staffed and not adequately equipped. “Whenever the nodal Medical Council of India (MCI) comes for inspection, the Medical Education Department quickly gathers staff including doctors from other hospitals and puts up a show to avoid de-recognition,” alleged an official.

In this context, top officials in the two departments of Finance and Health question the rationale behind the proposal to start further colleges. What has surprised officials is that despite a formal note from both departments cautioning the government, the Cabinet went ahead with approving the new colleges.

Diversion of funds

Meanwhile, health officials are also upset that the Medical Education Department has used the Arogya Raksha Samiti funds from the jurisdictional district hospitals to pay the initial fee to MCI for the new colleges.

“This has been done without even consulting our officials. The Arogya Raksha funds (raised through user fee collection from patients) are meant for the upgradation of hospitals and better patient care. We have asked for the refund of this money,” sources added.

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