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Medical students protest the dearth of PG seats in India
Mahima Dayal  3rd Aug 2013

Senior doctors and medical students at the protest march

f the 45,600 students (likely to reach 50,000 shortly, due to the progressive steps taken by the Medical Council of India) that enrolled into undergraduate courses in medicine, a mere 12,000 get seats in Post Graduation (PG) after 5 years of MBBS. The 73%, who do not make it, then spend 1-2 years preparing for the same paper and get added to approximately 1.5 lakh students who take the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) each year.

In the last PG entrance exam under NEET, over 1, 10,000 doctors appeared for the test to claim one of the 12,000 seats. The sheer outrage apparent in these numbers is a concern that has now been taken up by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Association of Healthcare Providers India (AHPI) in a nationwide movement, 'Save the Doctor', which demands equalisation of UG and PG medical seats. The need for specialisation remains imminent and reflects in India's high mortality rate (India tops the list with 16.55 lakh such deaths in 2011) which can be accounted by the lack of specialist care made available. A comparison with USA, where there are 19,000 UG seats and 32,000 PG and additional fellowship seats, may help put these numbers in context.

Dr. Devi Shetty, who was a part of the MCI's governing council three years ago and is now the Treasurer, AHPI, said, "It is a sad plight that nearly two lakh young doctors in our country spend 2-5 years in coaching after successfully completing five years of MBBS, mugging multiple choice questions rather than treating patients and learning the art of healing."

Three years back the MCI had passed a judgement which aimed to do away with the disparity between the number of UG and PG seats, but the situation since is far from being stabilised. If anything, it only got worse when MCI removed the thirty diploma seats for PG students but fail to replace this with more PG seats. In addition, a one year compulsory rural posting for PG students was introduced, which has increased the combined training period for specialists to 13 years.

Nearly two lakh young doctors in our country spend 2-5 years in coaching after successfully completing five years of MBBS, mugging MCQs rather than treating patients and learning the art of healing. — Dr. Devi Shetty

Dr. Narendra Saini, the Secretary General, IMA, said, "The Indian Medical Association supports rural posting. But in the present situation, making it compulsory is not feasible because there is no structured posting in rural areas. According to an RTI which we filed, only 2866 vacancies are there in rural areas but we are producing 40,000 doctors. So the rest of them will be waiting for their rural posting and will be stuck with nowhere to go as they are not eligible to take up their PG entrance exams too."

A protest march which started at Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC) supported by senior doctors and angered students last Thursday, culminated at Rajghat. Students carrying aggrieved banners which read, 'Stop playing with our future' , 'we are doctors, not free labourers' , 'we don't oppose rural posting, we oppose the way it has been forced upon us' and so on swarmed the roads shouting these slogans. The campaign has raised 6,237 signatures which will be sent to Union Minister of Health Gulam Nabi Azad. The campaign plans to stage a dharna ourside the MCI office at Dwarka on the 8th of August as well as a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar if their demands are not met.

Navneet Mutreja who is the coordinator for this campaign, said, "If the situation does not change we are not far from desperate measures like importing surgeons from other countries. Recently, due to public pressure Brazilian PM agreed to import 6,000 specialist doctors from Cuba." Mutreja emphasises that the rural service be divided among the internship period of both UG and PG courses, thereby saving time, and also training enthused students.

Ghazal Agarwal, who completed her MBBS in dentistry from MAMC is now looking at applying for colleges abroad for specialisation. She says. "If we compare the Indian doctor's education module to any other profession, it is evident that we easily fall behind in terms of time and struggle. Being an MBBS is not close to sufficient, a specialisation is required, and that takes a minimum of 12 to 14 years to complete and only by 32 does one become fully trained to begin a practice and plan on start a family of their own."

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