Doctored Processes, Compromised Students

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INVESTIGATION

In July, TEHELKA exposed the rotten conditions at four private medical colleges. G Vishnu goes undercover to lay bare the truth at two more

Work in progress : The incomplete hospital at RMC
Work in progress : The incomplete hospital at RMC

FOUR WEEKS ago, TEHELKA exposed four private medical colleges near Delhi that are flourishing despite brazenly flouting norms set by the Medical Council of India (MCI). A flood of tip-offs received after the cover story (Where Munna Gets His MBBS, 16 July), led TEHELKA to two more colleges nearby, where blatant violations of basic standards of medical education could be seen. Both these colleges admit hundreds of students per year, demanding capitation fee from students with average grades.

A clampdown on capitation fee has been suggested by a parliamentary standing committee on the Prohibition of Unfair Practices in Technical Educational Institutions, Medical Educational Institutions and Universities Bill 2010. The committee suggested on 1 August the penalty on institutions that demand capitation fee be increased from Rs 50 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

As TEHELKA found, this is merely representative of a sinister nationwide trend in which dubious trusts run a lucrative trade to feed India’s demand for doctors. These institutions do not seem to be worried about patients’ lives being endangered by insufficiently trained doctors. So desperate are these colleges to hide their skeletons, our team was contacted by a Santosh Medical College official sitting in the office of an MP hailing from UP to offer hush money to scotch the story.

Rama Medical College, Hapur

Run By: The Rama Group, founded in 1996, has three medical colleges. BS Kushwah is chairman of the group

From (left to right) Priyanka, an assistant manager with Rama Group; Raj Kumar, the manager; and the empty OPD at the hospital

Rama Medical College in Hapur, Uttar Pradesh, has permission for 150 students this year but has no hospital at all — only an OPD on the ground floor of a building under construction. The Rama Group has another medical college by the same name in Kanpur.

The college, about half an hour from the first toll gate on NH-24, is right in front of an engineering college. A slushy road leads to a construction site. As the TEHELKA team made its way into the building through the slush and wet cement, the time was 10.15 am and all of eight patients were waiting for consultation. Several faculty chambers were empty. Most labs on the ground floor were yet to be completely set up. The operation theatre or the ICU did not show signs of any activity. The second, third and fourth floor are still under construction and walls are still being built.

A guard, surprised to see an admission seeker, escorted the TEHELKA undercover reporter to Raj Kumar, who called himself a ‘manager’. He was the sole occupant in an office located on the first floor. Kumar was told that this reporter is a marketing executive from Bengaluru whose younger brother wanted to study medicine. The conversation went thus:

TEHELKA: The thing is, my brother, he is a little dull. He did score 63 percent. But his skills aren’t that great.

RAJ KUMAR: The minimum is 60 percent. The fee structure is Rs 6.10 lakh per anum. If he has scored 60 in PCB (physics, chemistry, biology) that’s good enough.

TEHELKA: So is there a capitation fee?

RK: Yes. The capitation fee is dependent on the personal interview.

TEHELKA:Meaning, if the boy is not very bright, you can still make space…

RK: Yes, yes.

TEHELKA:How much, approximately, will be the capitation fee?

RK: I can’t say. It all depends on the interview and the PCB percentage… you can get all the details you want if you visit our corporate office in Noida.

TEHELKA: When is the batch starting?

RK: Coming September

TEHELKA: What? The college building is barely anything… the construction is still going on. How is it possible to have the college and the hospital ready by September?

RK: It will be done, I assure you.

Getting the required contact details from Kumar, TEHELKA walked the corridors for nearly half an hour to see the extent to which construction had reached. Neither the hospital building nor the boys’ and girls’ hostel is near completion.

Two days later on 18 July, following Raj Kumar’s lead, TEHELKA reached the Rama Group-owned three-floor Dr Suraj Building at B-block near Noida city centre. Priyanka, an assistant manager with Rama Group, was told this reporter was a prospective candidate.

After a long enumeration of the ‘advantages’ of the college, Priyanka went on to reveal that the capitation fee was Rs 10 lakh per student. “A one-time payment,” she assured.

TEHELKA asked if the construction of the campus would be complete by September. The reply was baffling and indicative of the methods these colleges use to trap unsuspecting admission seekers. “Even otherwise, the first-year students have to learn the very basics. They will not need everything…” she retorted, when confronted with some basic facts.

The MCI states that in the first year after the college’s inception, the hospital must register at least 60 percent bed occupancy. In the second year, the bar is increased to 80 percent. Given that there are two other medical colleges in the area desperately struggling to get patients, it is obvious that these goals cannot be met

Given the extent of lacunae, the question remains as to why the college got the approval at all. Was it in good faith? This arbitrary manner in which money-making trusts are given the licence to be guardians of health by the establishment meant to monitor ethics in the medical sector signifies the unscrupulous manner in which the MCI goes about its duty.

The MCI did not respond to TEHELKA’s questionnaire on the approval given to Rama Medical College. The phones, mails and fax to the council’s Delhi office went unanswered.

Santosh Medical College, Ghaziabad

Run By: Maharaji Educational Trust, Chennai. Its main promoter is Dr Paramasivam Mahalingam

With a sprawling campus in the suburban Pratap Vihar of Ghaziabad and a huge hospital right in the heart of the town, Santosh Medical College with a capacity of 700 beds, is every bit impressive for an innocent passerby. For anyone with even a minute sense of news, the façade of this college is what appears impressive.

One of the most notorious offenders of MCI guidelines, Santosh Medical College has come under the media scanner multiple times. Ketan Desai, the disgraced MCI chairman, himself is known to have had a dubious relationship with the college in giving it the necessary approvals during the academic year 2008-09.

In April 2010, soon after Desai’s dismissal, a news channel had exposed the scandalous approval given to the college by Desai’s team in June 2001 within just four days of the MCI general body meeting. In 2005 and 2009, the college also got approval for raising the bar on number of students it can admit per year. Both the approvals were completely in violation of norms. However, in January the same year, a leading English daily had exposed the college’s non-existent faculty, departments, equipment and patients.

When TEHELKA was tipped-off about the college, the sources had revealed that the college continues to be brazen because of guardian angels in the power circles of Uttar Pradesh as well as the MCI. And TEHELKA found the brazenness in both counts — a disgracefully run hospital and an indifferent management.

The most glaring evidence of this college’s venality lies in the fact that people do not trust their health with Santosh Hospital. MCI rules state that the bed occupancy on an average must be 80 percent from second year onwards. This college, if TEHELKA’s evidence is to go by, registers barely a fraction of that mark.

On 16 July, TEHELKA entered the nine storey hospital posing as a patient’s relative. What appeared like a busy hospital at the outset masked the barrenness that lay within.

In the surgery ward, only six out of 84 beds were occupied. The last 24 beds did not have mattresses

On the first floor itself, TEHELKA captured on hidden camera the CT scan and radiology room locked from outside. In the casualty ward, of the nearly 35 beds, only eight were occupied. The medical glass room was locked too.

Moving up the stairs, the second floor was a bigger scandal. The general medicine ward had 84 beds, of which only 12 were occupied. The TBwards for both men and women were locked from outside. The TB and chest lab too was locked. Further on, the opthalmology ward was completely vacant and filled with dust.

On the third floor, the scene was no different. Of the 16 paediatrics wards, two wards had just eight patients between them. One was vacant with a thick layer of dust and the rest were locked. Faculty chambers were locked.

By now TEHELKA could anticipate the sights on the fourth floor. In the surgery ward, only six out of 84 beds were occupied. The last 24 beds did not have mattresses and were dusty.

Fifth floor onwards, a series of locked rooms was all one could see. It seemed the OT and Labour Room of the department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology had not seen any activity in the longest time. Dust-filled beds and empty corridors stood as evidence. Of 28 wards, just six were occupied and the rest were locked from outside.

Ghost hospital (left to right) : SMC representative Pradhu Raj; an empty ward; and patients are a rare sight at this hospital

Another floor on, the ENT section with 14 wards was worse — two wards had just four patients between them. Three wards were vacant with a thick layer of dust settled on beds with no mattresses. Needless to say, the rest of the wards were locked from outside.

The orthopaedics ward with 60 beds in 14 wards undoubtedly took the prize. None of the 14 wards were occupied. Here, just as we were about to move to the next floor, an extremely wary security guard escorted the TEHELKA correspondent downstairs.

However, in a second attempt, TEHELKA scanned the seventh, eighth and the ninth floors of the hospital building. On the ninth floor, we saw action — four people were seen waiting outside the ICU.

Innumerable efforts by TEHELKA to get Santosh Medical College management’s version went in vain. When this correspondent reached the college, asking for a formal interview, he was stopped at the gates by four guards and Pradu Raj, a representative of the college. Raj, even as he alerted his higher-ups about TEHELKA’s request, rudely asked us to leave. “Please do not disturb us. We have not taken any money from government,” he kept saying.

TEHELKA’s attempts to speak to students of the college on both days were thwarted by overcautious guards who behaved as they were guarding a top secret facility — none of the other colleges TEHELKA has visited had such paranoid guards.

In an email response, M Illayaraja, the secretary to the dean, had this to say: “Some unwanted social elements and competitors are always in the habit of creating problems for our college. Some wards are under renovation and patients have been shifted to the emergency ward, ICU and other well-equipped wards.”

G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.com.
vishnu@tehelka.com

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