Dhubri Medical College

Much to the relief and euphoria of the inhabitants of an otherwise backward  Dhubri district,  in terms of per capita income and human index parameters, a government medical college has been formally launched in Dhubri town situated in the western part of Assam bordering Bangladesh.  In consonance with the unprecedented flurry of benevolent, people-friendly works and schemes being implemented at the grass root level with remarkable speed ever since the installation of the present Assam government in May 2021, the ninth medical college of the state with 100 seats for MBBS students has begun heralding an era of hope and promise in quality medical treatment and education not only to Dhubri but to the entire inhabitants of lower Assam districts as a whole.

A casual glimpse at the history of medical colleges and education reveals that till 2008, there were only three medical colleges in Assam. While the iconic Berrywhite medical school at Dibrugarh was upgraded into Assam medical college back in 1947, Gauhati Medical College was established in 1960. Silchar Medical College had started functioning from 1968. 

For long 61 years, these three medical colleges were producing a paltry 391 medical graduates falling far short of the requirement of treatment by qualified Allopathic doctors to the growing population of the state at affordable prices.

Further, the acceptable   ‘doctor-patient ratio’ prescribed by WHO (World Health Organization) is 1:1000.   Needless to say,   the ratio in Assam was lopsided for a long.  Assam had one doctor against 1,800 patients till 2016.   

To put the record straight,   however, overall doctor-patient ratio in India is 1:1655 as against the WHO norm of    1:1000   (Source: NMC (National medical commission).     

To meet the widening gulf of doctor–patient ratio,   the government of Assam had started working towards a solution and targeting to reach the required ratio.  The government of Assam had embarked on the challenging task of establishing government medical colleges with a view to producing more medical graduates and to taking health care services to the doorstep of hoi-polloi.    

After waiting agonizingly for nearly over five decades,   Jorhat Medical was established in 2009 with  125 undergraduate seats to set the ball rolling for the establishment of more medical colleges for the benefit of the beleaguered residents.

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed Medical College at Barpeta in 2011, and Tezpur Medical College in 2014 were established with 125 undergraduate seats in each of them.  While the medical college at Diphu and Lakhimpur Medical College were established in 2019 with 100 seats each, a new era in medical education and treatment had begun.   

Simultaneously, the existing capacity of undergraduate seats at Dibrugarh and Gauhati Medical Colleges were augmented from 170 and 156 respectively to 200 each.  Silchar seats rose from 65 to 125 undergraduate seats.   Consequently, from a meager figure of 391,   the state has been producing 900 medical graduates from   2017 onward, a phenomenal stride within a short span.  Enhancement of seats facilitated better treatment under rich infrastructure besides opening opportunities for the bright students of the state to fulfill their dream of becoming doctors and serving the people.

Correspondingly, postgraduate seats were enhanced in three medical colleges and newly established colleges.   As of date, Assam is producing approximately   675 postgraduates and diploma holders in an allopathic stream in all familiar disciplines like medicine, and surgery inclusive of all other gamuts of the specialized streams like  E&T, pathology, pediatrics, Gynaecology etc.

Interestingly, a casual comparison with Bengal’s medical scenario showcases a clear advantage for Assam.  As per the 2011 census, West Bengal’s population is   9.13 Crores, three times more than Assam’s population as per the 2011 census.    Till 2016, West Bengal had nine Govt. medical colleges five of which were in Kolkata and four outside Kolkata city.   

These four outskirt colleges were at Siliguri, Burdwan, Bankura, and Midnapur.  Around the same time,   there were six govt medical colleges in Assam in 2016 and five of which were outside Guwahati.  Therefore, a load of patients medical college-wise reveals the ratio stood at    0.87 and 1.923 in Bengal and Assam respectively per crore population.   Out of 20 medical colleges in Bengal, twelve of these medical colleges have come up after 2012.  Far-flung Colleges in Coochbehar, Raiganj, Nadia, Murshidabad, Malda, etc have come up in 2019. Viewed from this perspective, Assam is certainly catering to more afflicted persons in the length and breadth of the state with skilled manpower and enriched infrastructure.

Much has been written about the high MMR (maternal mortality rate) in Assam. As per figures and statistics of the Registrar General of India( SRS bulletin),  India has made significant progress in reducing MMR from 556 per lakh live births in 1990 to 103 per lakh births in 2017-2019., a   whopping 81% decline. Nine states–Kerala, Maharashtra, Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Karnataka and Haryana have achieved the ambitious target of  MMR of 100 per lakh live births in 2020. 

The rest of the states including Assam are the poor-performing states as per the record.  However, Assam has been maintaining a consistent declining rate in MMR in comparison to many other states.  In 2017-18, Assam has recorded a 7.29 percent decline in MMR. The relentless effort is on to reduce maternal mortality nay death during childbirth-related issues for over a decade.  In fact, Assam’s present poor plight is due to the previous poor record of MMR up to 2005. To use an analogy, Assam’s poor MMR is due to the ‘’ original scene’ committed by a set of the previous generations of administrators.  Assam recorded 99 point drop in MMR earlier.

With equal emphasis given to upgrading existing Ayurvedic colleges and establishing new colleges as a part of ‘mainstreaming Ayush,’ phenomenal and all round developments are being carried out at breakneck speed vindicating the saying that ‘action speaks louder than words’.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Northeast Now


Gautam Ganguly

Ganguly is a retired ACS officer and sports enthusiast. He can be reached at: gautamganguly2012@gmail.com