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India’s medical colleges are producing quacks say ex-Secretary Health

The woman who used to be India’s most senior health bureaucrat is clearly not planning on a quiet retirement. In the latest of her highly controversial opinion pieces for The Hindu, Sujatha Rao says that, “many medical colleges are producing quacks. The tragedy is that we all know about it.”

The former Secretary Health & Family Welfare is known for her opposition to the increasingly important rôle of the private sector in India’s healthcare system and says that, “India is the only country that authorises, as official policy, the sale of medical seats by private medical colleges, implicitly accepting the principle that the ability to pay, and not merit, is what counts.” That is, of course, not quite true: lots of countries have private medical training institutions which require that students pay or which, as in India, make admission easier for those with private funding than for those who cannot pay. She also thinks that India is unusual in having no third-party certification of doctors before they practise although many countries allow anyone with a medical degree to practise medicine — it’s currently a major controversy in Brazil, for example.

However, Sujatha Rao’s broader point is that there are few effective sanctions against incompetent doctors and that doctors are given unhealthy incentives to earn enough to pay back the costs incurred in getting a medical degree. That is certainly a frequent theme in once adulatory media coverage of doctors.

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