New Delhi: Plan panel Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Thursday pitched for opening up of the medical education sector to foreign investment to increase the supply of professionals, including doctors and nursing staff.
    
"My view is that opening up (medical education) to private (investment) sector is crucial... and wherever private investment is allowed, I have no problem with foreign investment," Ahluwalia told reporters here on the sidelines of a Health Summit organised by CII.
    
Ahluwalia's comment comes at a time when the government is facing flak over its decision to open up the multi-brand retail sector to foreign investment. The decision has resulted in a logjam in the Parliament, which could not function for the eighth day in a row.
    
He further said, "If the private sector is going to set up 10,000 beds over the next few years, then you have a chance that 30 medical schools could be created."
    
Ahluwalia suggested that with present capacity of medical institutions in the country, it is not possible to produce half a million doctors in the next few years, which is the need of the hour.
    
"At present, you cannot run a medical university unless you are a society or a trust. If you have a major corporate hospital and want to run a medical school, it is not allowed. Is that a good idea?", he asked.
    
According to Ahluwalia, the law prescribing that only trust or societies can run a medical school in the country is an obsolete idea in the present context.
    
He stressed that it would be better to have a 'Section 25' company running a medical school, as it would run business in a more transparent way.

AR "Generally people want more doctors. But nobody is focusing attention on what specific relaxation is needed I you really want (to produce) more doctors," Ahluwalia added.
    
"We have much high FAR (Floor Area Ratio) for hotels, but we don't have it for hospital (in India). What is the justification for that we need more hotels... It is irrational," he said.
    
Increasing expenditure on health will not improve the situation, he said, adding that life expectancy in the USA is less than what it is in Europe, even though the American government spends about 15 percent of its GDP on health.
    
The Indian government, he added, proposes to increase expenditure on health to 2.5 percent of the GDP during the 12th Five-Year Plan from 1.03 percent currently.

(Agencies)