At a time when India is battling with shortage of 9 lakh doctors, converting hospitals at major ports into medical colleges can not only cater to healthcare needs of people but also fill the void of specialists, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today. A high-level committee, constituted to study port hospitals and suggest the model of their development, has recommended converting these hospitals into medical colleges or speciality centres on PPP basis, the minister said. "There is a shortage of nine lakh doctors in the country.
To leverage the ports healthcare infrastructure optimally, we have proposed to develop our port hospitals on PPP mode," Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Minister Gadkari said after a presentation by the committee. He said that out-of-the-box thinking is required to utilise limited resources through innovative ways. The 12-member committee, headed by Chairman of the Academic Committee of the Medical Council of India, Ved Prakash Mishra, has suggested upgrading these hospitals to medical colleges or speciality centres on public-private- partnership mode will not entail any financial liability on the Central government, he said. Once the government upgrades these port hospitals, not only kins of employees could undertake medical and paramedical courses but quality healthcare would be available to employees and the masses, he said. The government, after necessary regulatory approvals, is planning to invite tenders for these colleges while infrastructure, land and building will be modernised. "While cargo operations in major ports are the primary focus area, all aspects of port functioning are now being examined critically to improve asset utilisation for enhancing revenues of the ports, creating jobs and maximising benefit to the people," the minister said. Gadkari said that if port hospitals can be upgraded under PPP mode and if medical colleges and PG courses can be started in them, it will create educational and employment opportunities for the local youth. This will make ports the drivers of economic change, enabling equitable and inclusive growth of the local area, he said adding, this will also usher in the era of Smart Ports, Smart Cities and Smart Hospitals. The committee, which visited port hospitals at Mumbai, Kochi, Chennai, Kolkata and Vishakhapatnam recommended possible alternatives by which port hospitals can be upgraded under PPP mode so that their healthcare facilities are augmented. The report, submitted by the committee, indicated the feasibility of starting of medical college and post-graduate speciality courses attached to port hospitals. According to the report, the hospitals at Mumbai Port which has more than 200 beds, can be taken up for this, while hospitals at Kochi, Chennai, Vishakhapatnam and Kolkata ports can be considered for upgradation into tertiary care facilities, with a particular super speciality being assigned to a specific port hospital. This particular super speciality can cater to all referral purposes by the other port hospitals. The Port Trust Hospital, Chennai, could be availed for development of tertiary care facilities in the domain of cardiovascular thoracic surgery, Port Trust Hospital Kochi for nephrology, Port Trust Hospital Kolkata for neurology and neurosurgery and Port Trust Hospital Vishakhapatnam for gastroenterology and surgical gastroenterology respectively, the committee said. The report has also indicated certain policy changes that need to be brought in with the objective of widening the ambits of PPP mode and teachers eligibility qualification under the relevant regulations. The committee was constituted in May last year. India has 12 major ports -- Kandla, Mumbai, JNPT, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Kochi, Chennai, Ennore, V O Chidambaranar, Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia), which handle approximately 61 per cent of the country's total cargo traffic.