South First visited two of the colleges to be opened: While they are still works in progress, the basic infra to get them going is in place.
It was a cloudy afternoon in Rajanna Sircilla, and the recently established Government Medical College was buzzing with activity. A student hailing from Rajasthan, who got admission through the all-India quota of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), sat in the vice principal’s office, diligently presenting his documents. His parents, beaming with pride, accompanied him.
Outside the college, a man in a white shirt and trousers stepped out of a Toyota Fortuner. He made his way towards the main entrance, where a signboard said, “Government of Telangana, Government Medical College Rajanna Sircilla, Telangana 505301 F.NO.:025961.” A small group of people followed him.
Their attention shifted to an individual holding a sheaf of papers. They crowded around him, and all of them got into an animated discussion.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the building, the cacophony of construction work echoed, with sand piles forming a formidable line in front of the structure. A backhoe stood ready to clear the way.
Inside the main entrance, six women diligently scraped mud from the floor using metal plates. A little farther, a group of men were hard at work to fix generator wires near a transformer.
It was 12 September, three days ahead of the scheduled inauguration of the still-under-construction medical college in Rajanna Sircilla.
On 15 September, Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, will virtually inaugurate nine medical colleges across the state, simultaneously.
Each college will have a hundred seats per year, thereby adding 900 more MBBS seats to the state’s capacity.
According to the government, these educational institutions, strategically located in Kamareddy, Karimnagar, Khammam, Jayashankar Bhupalpally, Komaram Bheem Asifabad, Nirmal, Rajanna Sirisilla, Vikarabad, and Janagaon, are poised to offer world-class facilities to incoming students in the upcoming academic year.
This would mark a first in the country’s history when the nine new medical colleges are inaugurated in the state within the same academic year.
Telangana had achieved a similar milestone the previous year by commencing classes in eight new medical colleges.
Recently, Health Minister T Harish Rao issued directives to ensure the successful commencement of classes at these nine government medical colleges.
People of Rajanna Sircilla believe it deserves its own medical college.
“First, it’s a rapidly growing town, situated very close to significant pilgrimage sites, including a nearby Siva temple and Vemulawada. These attractions draw a substantial transient population, making the transportation of patients to distant locations a challenge, in case of emergencies,” an official at GMC Sircilla told South First.
The people in Sircilla are required to travel to Karimnagar or Hyderabad if they need expert treatment for various ailments.
The official added that the town was known for its fast-developing textile industry, particularly power looms, which employed a considerable labour force.
“The medical college here is entirely funded by the government, and we are committed to providing all healthcare facilities completely free of charge. This includes medications, injections, diagnostic tests, hospitalisation, and ICU care — all offered without any putting financial burden on the patients,” he said.
South First visited two of these new medical colleges — one in Rajanna Sircilla and the other in Kamareddy. Both sites were still bustling with construction activities, ahead of welcoming future doctors.
In April, the National Medical Council (NMC) approved 100 MBBS seats each to seven medical colleges. In the subsequent months, two more medical colleges received its permission.
These approvals came after the Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) of the NMC conducted physical verification assessments in April. They assessed various aspects, including the availability of infrastructure facilities, such as laboratories, libraries, hostels, hospitals, and qualified faculty with relevant experience, and publications, as well as residents, tutors, nursing, and paramedical staff.
The assessment aimed to determine the readiness of government medical colleges to commence the MBBS course for the academic year 2023-2024. Based on the findings, the NMC decided to grant permission to these colleges.
The assessment of a few medical colleges such as Kamareddy was not satisfactory, the secretary of the Telangana Government Health and Family Welfare Department provided an undertaking that necessary facilities would be provided within three months.
According to the NMC, the medical colleges were found to be equipped with the necessary infrastructure requirements, and permission was granted for the current batch of students to continue their studies until they appear for their final year examinations.
The decision also allowed the government the time to meet additional requirements for the next batch of students.
According to the NMC’s minimum requirement for the annual MBBS regulation, every medical college shall comprise the medical college, the attached teaching hospital/(s), and a hostels for students or interns.
In Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities, the campus could also be on two plots of land, one housing the teaching hospital and the other the medical college with the hostel for students and interns.
If the campus is housed in more than one plot of land, the distance between each one of these plots should be less than 10 km or less than 30 minutes of travelling time, whichever is less.
As Sircilla and Kamareddy fall under Tier 2 cities, the district hospitals of both districts have been attached to these medical colleges and are within a radius of five km.
The NMC guidelines further said that provided that where the government district hospital is being considered for use as the teaching hospital, all constituents of the district hospital, even if they are on two plots of land, will be considered as the affiliated teaching hospital, “provided that the main district hospital has at least 300 beds”.
The district hospital in Sircilla has 330 beds, which is above the minimum number required for the attached hospital, but in Kamareddy the current district hospital building has only 150 beds, a doctor attached to the hospital said.
To increase the bed capacity, the construction of one more floor at the district hospital is underway.
Also, as per the norms, each medical college should have attached hostels for students. However, there are no hostels for the students on the campus.
The government has made arrangements for the students to stay outside the campus. For GMC Sircilla, the government has arranged a place 4.5 km away from the hospital.
“Hostels will also be available, and we’ve identified a temporary one approximately four to five kilometres away, with transportation provided for the students,” a college official told South First.
He added that the location of the medical college posed a unique challenge. It requires at least 36 acres.
“Such vast expanses of land are not typically available in the central areas of towns. However, this location meets our needs, and we’ve acquired the necessary land to establish a comprehensive hospital, college, and hostel, although it will take some time to complete,” he added.
To meet the requirements of the newly established medical colleges, it appears that the infrastructure is currently at a “bare minimum”.
For starters, while the medical college buildings exist, there is no proper approach road to either of the colleges that South First visited.
The exteriors of the buildings are still cluttered with construction materials, and construction work is ongoing. Furthermore, the rear sides of both college buildings remain unfinished.
At Kamareddy, though designated teaching rooms have been identified, benches are still scattered in the corridors, and the rooms stand empty.
In Rajanna Sircilla, only essential classrooms have been designed inside the building, while other parts of the structure are still under construction.
NMC guidelines specify that each college should have a library, but while a room has been allocated for this purpose, there are no books in it.
According to NMC guidelines, a 100-bed MBBS college requires 87 faculty members, along with 25 tutors or demonstrators and 40 senior residents.
In May, the Telangana government transferred professors and associate professors to fill these positions at the new medical colleges. Additionally, they hired approximately 1,442 professors across 34 specialities for appointment in the new medical colleges.
The first-year class has 100 students who have to study three subjects — Anatomy, Physiology, and Biochemistry. In line with NMC guidelines, it requires one professor, two associate professors, and three assistant professors for each subject.
“Starting a medical college involves a thorough process. We applied to the Union government’s National Medical Commission, and they conducted a meticulous inspection of every aspect of our hospital and college before permitting us. Hence, all essential facilities are in place,” an official at GMC Sircilla told South First.
He added that some construction work is still underway. They have established the critical requirements for the first year, “including classrooms, labs, demonstration rooms, and body dissection facilities. We have a full complement of faculty members”, the official said.
With the addition of these nine new medical colleges, the state’s government medical college tally will reach 26, offering a total of 3,915 medical seats. This marks a significant increase from the mere 850 MBBS seats available in 2014 through five government medical colleges.
“Our vision is to establish a medical college in every district, and we’ve made significant progress, with eight new medical colleges established last year, and an additional nine this year. We have plans to open eight more in the coming year,” the official said.
A medical college, coupled with a hospital, plays a vital role in serving the community’s healthcare needs.
However, the effectiveness of these institutions in serving the people is significantly enhanced when they have well-established facilities right from the beginning.
In Telangana, while these medical colleges hold the promise of benefiting the community, it will take a few more years for them to reach their full potential and make substantial progress in serving the community.