Vedantaa Was 1st To Be Registered Under Cos Act
Just two months after it got a free hand from the state government to decide its fee structure, Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences in Palghar has been derecognized by the Medical Council of India (MCI), which reported “large-scale” infrastructure deficiencies, including inadequate teaching staff, at the institute. Vedantaa is Maharashtra’s first private limited medical college and was in the news last year for charging the highest fees among all private medical colleges in the state.
The college moved the Bombay high court against the MCI inspection, stating that few teachers were present that day due to a cyclone warning and requesting a second inspection. The high court directed MCI to conduct the second inspection. The MCI then moved the Supreme Court, which rejected the college’s plea for a second inspection.
The MCI has effectively reduced Vedantaa’s student intake to zero for the current year and the admitted students might be transferred to other colleges in the state.
The MCI inspection found that the college had 84% faculty deficiency, 87% shortfall of resident doctors and that its pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, forensic medicine and community medicine departments were under construction. That apart, MCI inspectors found that the bed occupancy was 1% at 10am, and majority of the wards were locked or under renovation and non-functional. Also, data of outdoor patient department (OPD) attendance, and radiological and laboratory investigations was inflated.
Vedantaa was in the news for charging ₹14 lakh a year as fees
Pvt medical college with highest fees in state derecognised
On the days of the inspection, the MCI noted, there was no major, minor or daycare operation, no woman was present in the labour room, the blood bank was non-functional, the library was not available, and the exam hall was under construction.
“If they don’t get permission by the time the first year results are announced, we will transfer the students to other private colleges,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, head, Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER).
Shingare said that before the college was given the MCI nod to start operations, it was merely checked for the essential requirements for the first year. But when the inspection for granting the first renewal for admission of students for the academic year 2018-2019 was conducted on September 25 and 26, 2017, the MCI inspectors submitted a negative report.
TOI contacted Dr Ganesh Kesari, the college dean, but he refused to comment. But in the Supreme Court, the college had contended that attendance was low on the day of the inspection as there was a weather warning of a cyclone and it had requested a second chance to fix the deficiencies and have another MCI inspection. That request was turned down by the Supreme Court, though.
The MCI’s executive committee therefore recommended: “In view of the deficiencies as noted above, the Executive Committee of the Council decided to recommend to the Central Govt. to invoke Regulation 8 (3)(1)(a) of the Establishment of Medical College Regulation, 1999, and disapprove the application of the Vedantaa Institute of Medical Sciences, Palghar, Maharashtra under the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences Nashik u/s 10A of the IMC Act, 1956 for renewal of permission of MBBS course 2nd batch (150 seats) for the academic year 2018-2019.”
State government sources said the college will not be able to admit any students for the coming year. Apart from the Supreme Court ruling, another case against fees is slated to come up on Wednesday in the high court.
Earlier in April, the state had exempted this college from the ambit of the Fee Regulating Authority (FRA). This decision gave the institute a free hand to fix tuition and other fees. In a letter to the FRA, the state government had said the move was in line with the Centre’s decision to invite private companies with commercial interests to set up medical colleges.
The decision had shocked the medical fraternity and activists who had said this was the thin end of the wedge and colleges would increasingly use the existing rules to opt out of the regulatory framework, making medical education dearer.
Last year, Vedantaa was set up as Maharashtra’s first medical college under a private limited company. All other private colleges and hospitals in the state are set up as trusts.
The state had decided that the government would not reimburse fees of reserved category students admitted to Vedantaa, as is the case in other private colleges. Last year, the DMER exempted it from the FRA. But parents moved the FRA and, in one of its hearings, this quasi-judicial body ruled that as Vedantaa was a private professional college affiliated to the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences, it would fall under the purview of the FRA.
In a meeting on December 2, the FRA resolved that the institution was unaided, private and ran a professional course and, therefore, was subject to its jurisdiction under provisions of the Maharashtra Private and Unaided Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fees) Act, 2015.
The minutes of the meeting read, “The institution in blatant disregard for the ad hoc fees fixed by FRA, which is Rs 6 lakh per student, has been collecting Rs 14 lakh.” It added that the institution had declared the fees for NRI/institution quota at Rs 30 lakh, which was not permissible. Yet, the government overturned the FRA's decision, much to its dismay.