The Medical Council of India (MCI) is reportedly working on the proposal to increase the duration of the MBBS course from the existing 5.5 years to 6.5 years. The proposed one-year increase is being contemplated to set aside the additional year for mandatory rural service of MBBS graduates. In the light of this, AalaTimes spoke to young doctors to know what they think about the proposal.
The move has made a stir among the young doctors. Edmond Fernandes, officer for internal and external affairs at the Indian Medical Students’ Association and a final year MBBS student at Father Muller Medical College, Mangalore, said, “Increasing the course duration is insanity at its peak and exposes the pernicious underbelly of compromise. Do they understand the human face beyond policy making?”
Dr Deepak Tanwar, resident (orthopaedics) at Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, said, “Already there is a lack of interest among students to pursuing medicine as a career; the increase in course duration will further lead to the crunch in the number of students applying for MBBS.”
Dr Nishu Raj, resident (radiology) at Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi, said, “It is not right to increase the duration of MBBS course because it already takes almost six years to complete the course. Then if you want to do postgraduation, it will take another three years for that. Due to circumstances, if you don’t get selected for postgraduation right after MBBS, you will spend another two-to-three years to get admission into postgraduation course. So, it almost takes 9-10 years to complete postgraduation and over that the government is planning to add another one year. I think it’s not justified.”
On the union health ministry’s proposal to make one-year rural service mandatory for MBBS students, Dr Raj said, “I don’t know how they are going to force students to work into rural areas. It would become more difficult for girl students to work in rural areas. Often in rural medical colleges and hospitals anybody comes in and beats doctors and no one can do anything. We can’t say that don’t post girl students in rural areas, as education rules and regulations are same for both genders. But safety is really a serious concern, especially for girls. I don’t know if many students, after this proposal (mandatory rural service) gets implemented, will see medical profession as their first career option.”
Supporting the idea of mandatory rural service, Dr Tanwar said this could ease the burden of city hospitals where people from rural areas come even for minor ailments such as skin problems, infections and ante-natal checkups, which can be easily managed by MBBS students who have completed their internships and gained sufficient experience to treat such patients. “If you go to city hospitals, almost 40 per cent of the patients coming to the medicine OPD are those who can be managed by the experienced gained during the undergraduate medical study along with an internship. So, adding a doctor in rural setup will lead to decrease the load of patients rushing to city hospitals,” he said.
Dr Tanwar further said, “The compulsory rural service should come up with some additional benefits for doctors, such as higher stipends and reservation in postgraduate medical seats. Also, rural hospitals need better road connectivity, along with essential medicines and emergency equipments. Doctors working in rural areas would also require some assurance for their personal security. If soldiers posted in Siachen border areas can get an extra pay, why not doctors who work in rural area. In areas where soldiers die in landmine blast how can a doctor be safe? Also, when doctors are being beaten by patients’ attendants even in city hospitals, you can well imagine what can happen in villages.”
Reacting on the health ministry’s decision to ask the medical students going to the US for higher studies to sign a bond with the ministry that they will return to India after completing their study, Fernandes said, “The country will continue to have brain drain until the healthy competition is not maintained. How many doctors come out and how many PG seats are available? Most of those also have reservations. Where do they go? In the US, it’s not like that. In Harvard, they compete for a ratio of 1/8 and likewise. In India be it for any entrance, it’s a volume game. Let them address this first. If they cannot solve it on their own, they should involve us. We know the grassroots reality and the niche sectors.”
When asked how to deal with the shortage of doctors in rural areas, Fernandes said, “Addressing the shortage of doctors in rural India is very simple. The people staying there can be educated in medicine. I am very sure there are people who are interested to learn medicine. Instead of spending Rs 1.7 crore on every AIIMS doctor passing out, half, if not quarter, of that money can be spent on educating a rural youngster. Just imagine how every village will be transformed. The ministry lacks vision, the MCI plays it safe. This is the problem of this country. It exists because of the powerful middle class that builds it brick by brick.”
by Rajni Pandey
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