Doctors need urgent ‘medical’ attention

Guest article by Shobhit Sujay

We may never need an MBA for any purpose, and we may even avoid going to an engineer, but all of us, at some point or the other, have always needed a doctor. But imagine a situation where the country stops producing doctors, or say, efficient doctors…where would we go two days after trying our self-prescribed Paracetamols and Anacin’s? What would we do if that bottle of Benadryl proves ineffective? Or where would we go if, God forbid, our CT report says suspected lymphoma/malignancy?

Seems too exaggerated? Fine! But unfortunately, our country appears to be heading towards this spectre. Thousands of youngsters put in their heart and soul for at least six years (a year of preparation + five years of MBBS, including internship) to clear MBBS and to get a registration number from the Medical Council of India. And this registration number is certainly not just any number, it gives them the legal licence to treat and prescribe medicines to patients. But the fact of the matter is that a doctor is not considered capable enough unless he/she has an MD or MS degree against his/her name.

As per the system, an MBBS needs to pursue and complete successfully a post graduation to get either of these degrees, and for that they need to appear in several examinations. But to ease the situation, the government introduced NEET-PG. The concept behind NEET-PG was one nation-one exam and was meant replace the AIPGE and the multiple exams being held by various states and private medical college associations across the country.

The decision was welcomed by majority of the PG aspirants, but it did not go down well with several colleges/universities that held their separate exams. As many as 76 medical colleges sought exemption from the examination. However, the exam was conducted, and taken by over 90,000 doctors.

The issue was dragged to the court of law, and owing to the objections raised, the Supreme Court allowed the colleges to conduct their own exams. It, however, asked the colleges to not release their results till the final orders on the issue were out.

Now, in an interim order, the apex court has allowed the colleges to declare their results, and has declared NEET-PG as optional for medical colleges, but this decision is also declared valid for just one year, and a final order in this regard is slated for July 3.

Another point that needs to be stressed here is that several exams were advanced to adjust to the new system. This development acted as a major cause of concern for the aspirants as they got very little time to prepare for the examination.

If nothing else, the situation has done one thing – it has added to the woes of those, who have been slogging for the past several years against all odds to get a PG seat on merit, most of which is allegedly sold for crores. The aspirants have been putting in their best, but to no avail. The only thing they are getting in return is discouragement.

Dr Ritika Verma, a PG aspirant, says, “In the name of NEET, the exam was advanced, with a changed pattern. And now after having waited for months for the results, NEET stands optional…the entire system seems senseless, there’s no clarity on the road ahead.”

There are some who have welcomed the SC decision as well, but they also want one thing for sure, a NEET-PG, to end all sort of ‘malpractices’ – the alleged scam as exposed by some leading TV channels wherein medical colleges sell seats for crores.

“With so much fiasco in the last six months, it’s nice that the Supreme Court gave orders for results. But along with this, I seriously hope and pray that NEET would be a reality as imagined by the MCI because everyone knows about how the colleges demand crores for admission. The Supreme Court should realise this and then give a final verdict keeping this huge scam in mind,” says Dr Tushar Tarun, another PG aspirant.

Now, if we take the whole thing into consideration, the very foundation of medical education in India seems to be at fault. While the curriculum is both tough and expensive, there is certainly no clarity on the rewards for the efforts put in. No wonder that several doctors, after completing their MBBS in India, are moving abroad even when it makes a huge hole in their pockets. No matter how deep their pockets are, a considerable chunk of them wish to stay in India and work to contribute towards the health sector of the country. But they are hardly left with any option, and hence the brain-drain that occurs.

It’s high time the government and system as a whole work towards the betterment of medical education in the country. Otherwise, the time is not far, when the already-ailing health care industry in the country would suffer further due to the lack of capable hands.

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