The Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) led by National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Conrad Kongkal Sangma, being the member of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government led by Narendra Damodardas Modi, should take full advantage to lure in more central schemes for the state, particularly the proposed Medical Colleges, which is a long due ambition of successive state government. Like the recent demand for inclusion of Khasi- Garo as the recognized languages, cutting across political lines, the political parties, civil society, and other NGOs should stand in one voice in helping the Medical Colleges become a reality.
The NDA has always stressed on better and affordable health care, at the same time it has stated that the nation can grow only when the growth in the North Eastern region is inclusive. Conrad’s cabinet should burn the midnight lamp and push the government to explore and complete the Detail Project Report before the Code of Conduct for the Lok Sabha General Election come into force.
About half a decade back, Former Meghalaya Chief Minister, Dr Mukul Manda Sangma, a medico practitioner himself, stressed that the Meghalaya Government Medical College should be a center of excellence pursuing research and development other than academic excellence. He said it at the function as he laid the foundation stone for State’s first Government Medical College on land under the Balalgre and Jewilgre Nokmaship near Damalgre, around 25 kilometers from Tura. The day also marked the dead anniversary of Garo freedom fighter Pa Togan Nengminja Sangma.
One more Medical College under Public–private partnership (PPP) mode would be established very soon in Shillong. The present Government Medical College is scheduled to be completed in three years time.
Dr Sangma emphasized on the need for the creation and utilization of human capital on a sustainable basis. He also stressed that this Medical College will bring about a tremendous Socio Economic transformation in the region.
Dr Sangma, a medical professional himself, surely understands the standards of Health Care in the state. As the existing Medical College- North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health & Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Shillong failed to absorb the students from Meghalaya due to limited seats; those admitted were in dilemma regarding the recognitions of their degree, in spite of having “state of the art” infrastructure. Medical Council of India (MCI) is yet to recognize this Medical College for awarding degree.
Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Imphal, Manipur, established on September 14, 1972 has been producing Medical professionals for the last four decades, but due to the demand for doctors, this 1074 bedded teaching hospital, equipped with modern state of the art equipments and teaching facilities having an intake capacity of 100 undergraduate, 145 Postgraduate Degree and 6 Postgraduate Diploma seats, still could not meet the demand of doctors in the region particularly for the rural health care.
The upcoming Meghalaya Medical College will have to compete with RIMS and NEIGRIHMS, hence the bench mark should be set at the initial stage, not only to admit the students through state quotas, but should increase the seats under General Categories in order to admit more qualified general students.
At present, the state government is battling to bring back the doctors who study through state quotas, while the rural health care is in shambles. The limited doctors mostly refuse to serve in the rural areas or in the militancy affected areas which in turn forces most of the rural folks to still depend on traditional treatment.
The picture in the urban areas is not bright too; the government’s hospitals and health centers are either battling shortage of doctors or medicine. While the private hospitals are running short of beds while providing high cost of treatments which has made it so that people belonging to the Poverty Line sectors are unable to avail proper health care. Meanwhile, the elite seek their health care outside the state and some even go abroad; reason as they lack confidence on the doctors through the state quotas.
In order to make health care available to all sections of the society, the upcoming Medical Colleges in Garo Hills and Khasi Hills should not be influenced through the recommendation of political pressure. As witnessed, the same politicians or bureaucrats who recommended the candidate refuse to be treated by the same doctor after they completed their studies. This is indeed preventing the deserving candidates to avail the opportunity who would have been a better practitioners, at the same time health care would have been available within the state.
As Dr. Sangma stressed for more than academic excellence in Medical College, standards should be adopted right from the admission of candidate, then selection of Medical teachers by picking up the best, and not through recommendations. We must keep in mind doctors are healers and deal with human lives.
Now the ball is in the court of the MDA government to complete the project which will only help in making health care more affordable for the citizen of Meghalaya.