January 22, 2008

Recognition soon for PG medical degrees from five countries

Over the next two months India will unilaterally recognise postgraduate medical degrees from English-speaking countries, Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss has said.

Initially, the PG degrees of the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand would be recognised, he clarified, stating this agreement would, over a period of time, become bilateral after issues relating to quality and uniform standards were settled. During his recent visit to the U.K., he explored the possibilities of mutual recognition of medical degrees, which had existed till 1975.

Speaking to journalists at The Hindu here on Saturday, Dr. Ramadoss said the Health Ministry would evolve regulations to control stem cell research and therapy. Admitting that there was a lot of research going on in the private sector, he stressed the need for regulating and monitoring that process. The regulations would be incorporated into the existing guidelines for In-vitro Fertilisation procedures.

Stem cell initiative

The National Stem Cell Initiative would give a fillip to stem cell research, he added. Research need not necessarily happen in the public sector. The Indian Council of Medical Research was funding organisations which undertook research in the area and collaborations were being worked out with the U.K. and Australia. Research would also move towards therapy in the next few years.

Funds for research

The government would pump a lot of money into medical research, with the setting up of a special department of health research, with a yearly allocation of Rs.1000 crore. It was the first time in this part of the world that an exclusive health research unit was being set up, the Minister said. In addition, the ICMR had been upgraded a department by itself.

On the anti-tobacco project, Dr. Ramadoss said that by May 31, the government would put in place a “smoke-free workplace policy.” Smoking would be banned in offices, restaurants, bars and pubs, buildings and discos. “If you want to smoke, do it on the roads, or within home.”

As for mandatory pictorial warnings on tobacco packs, he said the implementation was being delayed due to objections from the industry, but promised that the stipulation would be implemented soon.

Lack of specialists

To tackle the lack of specialists in the northeast, the Ministry was looking to the Army to allow its doctors to work in the region on a short-term basis. Even retired army doctors could serve there. Preliminary discussions had already been held with Army officials, Dr. Ramadoss said.

The Ministry was also looking at involving the private sector, through public-private partnerships, in the northeast. Reputed institutions such as the Sankara Nethralaya; NIMHANS; the Christian Medical College, Vellore; the Tata Memorial Hospital; and the Madras Medical Mission would be invited to handle specialities over a period of 10 years. The government would take care of recurring costs.

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