This has come as a boon to Indian students who go abroad for acquiring a postgraduate degree after doing their MBBS here.
The Union government, on March 10, issued a notification under the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, recognising postgraduate medical degrees awarded in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S., generally referred to as the English-speaking countries.
According to reports, the government’s decision was to overcome the shortage of medical practitioners in India. However, the government has made it clear that these degrees will be recognised on condition that they are recognised for enrolment of medical practitioners in the countries from where they are obtained.
Foreign postgraduate medical degrees used to be recognised in India in the past. This was stopped when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, as countries such as the U.K. did not recognise Indian postgraduate degrees. The system in place was mutual recognition in which India recognised postgraduate degrees of those countries which recognised its.
As the government has recognised these foreign degrees now, those holding them need not go through the screening test stipulated by the Medical Council of India (MCI). The recognition has come as a boon to Indian students who go abroad for acquiring a postgraduate degree after doing their MBBS here. They can now come back and practise.
The MCI says the number of registered allopathic doctors in the country is 6,83,582, with one doctor for every 1,634 population. In addition, there are more than six lakh practitioners of Indian Systems of Medicine and homoeopathy.
There are 271 medical colleges, out of which 138 are in the government sector and the remaining 133 in the private sector. The colleges can admit 31,172 MBBS students a year, and the number of seats available in various postgraduate medical courses is approximately 11,005 annually. However, medical practitioners say that only if the MCI and the Dental Council of India (DCI) recognise the courses in foreign countries can the degree holders register themselves in the country and practise.
A top MCI functionary told The Hindu-EducationPlus that now that the government had taken a decision, it was only natural that the MCI granted the recognition. The government, he said, had consulted the MCI, and the latter had given some suggestions on the issue of recognition.
M.R. Chandran, former Director of Medical Education, says that the positive aspect is that those having foreign degrees would be able to practise back in India.
Vinod B. Nair, ENT surgeon, says that the government’s argument that the degrees are being recognised to overcome the shortage of medical practitioners will not hold water. The foreign medical postgraduate degree holders need not go to remote areas or serve in rural areas where such shortage is felt. He thinks there was some kind of pressure from some lobby to go in for recognition. He feels that foreign medical degrees are not superior to the degrees awarded in India. V. Ipe Varghese, Principal, Government Dental College, Kozhikode, says the move should be seen in the globalised context. Those possessing foreign degrees will be able to practise in the country only after the MCI and the DCI recognise the degrees of institutions in these countries.
M. Sajish, who is now practising in Kannur, says that the recognition will further increase the number of students going aboard to secure a postgraduate degree. The exposure will be different in foreign countries, especially in the developed countries where the students will be exposed to diseases caused by the result of change in lifestyle, unlike in countries such as India, which witness epidemics and deficiency diseases. Moreover, there was the issue of quality control, which means that the academic standards of the institutions should be examined in detail one by one.
K. Mohanan, vice-president, Indian Medical Association (IMA) State unit, says that the recognition of foreign degrees will also help corporate hospitals in the country find manpower for their patients, mainly as part of health tourism packages. Also to benefit, of late, will be a couple of companies which work in health-care outsourcing where, for instance, a doctor sitting in India will give expert opinion about the CT scan taken of a patient in a U.S. hospital. These companies need doctors with the U.S. Medical Board certification.
Also, the U.K. has recently imposed restrictions on providing resident visas for persons from other countries under the highly skilled migrant programme under which doctors come. The restriction is for new entrants to the programme which is for five years after which a resident visa is given. The best brains from the country opt for this programme and this restriction may prompt people to come back to the country with foreign medical degrees. This recognition will make their practice in the country a lot easier.