Despite the Indian Medical Association (IMA) calling off the nationwide strike against the tabling of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill that would bring in a uniform medical examination across all forms of medicine, doctors are set to intensify their protests, demanding the complete withdrawal of the bill. Medical students are refusing to accept the equation of a gruelling five year examination schedule for a medical degree with an one size fits all degree in allopathy, homeopathy and ayurveda.
With protests getting stronger against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, more students and professionals from the medical sector have expressed discontent against various clauses mentioned. From the introduction of a National Licentiate Examination (NLE) to the NMC permitting private medical managements to decide on the fee structure for 60% of the total seats, talking points are many.
Hundreds of medicos took it to the streets across the state on Tuesday demanding the withdrawal of the bill. “By allowing the private managements to charge fee on a free-hand basis with the absence of any regulation on them, the NMC Bill is undoubtedly a pathway towards legalized commercialization of medical education in the country,” remarked Ravinandan B.B, State Vice-President of All India Democratic Students’ Organisation.
Reiterating his views, Dr Bharat Kumar, President of Karnataka Medical Students and Youth Doctors Asociation (KMSYDA) said that it was essential for the centre to also look onto the consideration of NLE as a common exit exam for AYUSH and MBBS graduates. “How can a single MCQ test thoroughly determine the eligibility of a medical practitioner? Using the same yardstick to evaluate graduates of totally different courses like AYUSH and MBBS itself is something that cannot be approved of,” he ascertained.
Students also point out that such an exam would add to their burden as appearing for two exams within a short period would affect their performance in the online test costing them the value of their degrees itself. They also added that this would also lead to devaluing the 36 comprehensive exams being conducted over the four years of their undergraduate medical education. “An extra exit exam even after attending exams at the end of each academic year is totally useless. Considering an AYUSH graduate (who attends a six-month crash course to cover the same syllabus covered by an MBBS graduate in five and a half years) equal to those who have toiled more is totally impractical. This also brings down the sole purpose of students preparing hard for medical entrance tests right from their school days,” said Neeraj, a post graduate radiology student at M.S. Ramaiah Medical College.
For Swati N., a medico hailing from Mysuru, the decision to hold such a test would promote the coaching institute lobbies to earn more. “When the medical degree itself is at stake, students would be pressurized more to clear the test. Rather than learning the subject in depth and acquiring practical and clinical expertise over the years, students would now focus on enlightening themselves on various MCQ-related techniques which would turn fatal for their prospective patients later down their career,” she said. Even though experts support the move to hold an eligibility test after graduation, they suggest that a centralized set of questions across medical varsities at the end of the final year would free students of the extra burden. “Similar to how the CBSE conducts an examination for class 10 students at the end of high school, comprehensive papers should be set to ensure quality of medical graduates instead,” said Vijayakrishnan J, a NEET trainer from the city.
Dr Kumar added that the online method of testing would add to the chances for the concerned bodies to be more corrupt, acting adverse to the formation of NMC over MCI. The representation of medical varsities and states to the Commission is the major concern among medical practitioners at the moment.
The demands from over different spheres of the sector have led to various students’ organizations and medicos at the state and at the national level to intensify the protests even after the Indian Medical Association (IMA) calling off the strike following the Centre’s decision to sent the bill to the parliamentary committee. “Protests with more participation will continue at more venues until the bill is withdrawn in accordance to the concerns raised,” added Ravinandan.
However, Dr Rahman, an AYUSH practitioner came down heavily on the ‘modern’ practitioners playing averse to the introduction of NLE as the common exit exam.
“It is saddening to see the elite section of the MBBS doctors displaying a kind of apartheid to AYUSH practitioners. One should realise that priority should be given to the sole purpose of being a qualified doctor rather than discriminating practitioners on terms of their educational degerees,” he said.
‘Equating Ayush with modern science will destroy it’
Despite the strike being called off on Tuesday afternoon, the IMA fraternity is worried about the manner in which the so-called bridge courses are being given a stamp of legitimacy.
Dr Ravindra R, Medical Director of Suguna Hospital who is also the Secretary of Private Hospitals and Nursing Homes Association(PHANA) says "nobody is against encouraging AYUSH. It must be done by creating facilities for AYUSH systems and by promoting research in those systems. However, mixing up modern scientific medicine with AYUSH will not encourage AYUSH, but will in fact destroy AYUSH completely, by obliterating all the diagnostic and therapeutic methods of those systems.
Further, such corruption will make it impossible for these AYUSH doctors to work because the very foundations of AYUSH systems are completely different and antithetical to that of modern medicine."
Despite calling the intention of NMC good, the IMA State Secretary Dr B Veeranna also says, "there have been allegations of corruption against some office bearers and members of MCI. Parliamentary Standing Committee and the Apex court have also made such observations. Yet, none of these allegedly corrupt office bearers or members have been subjected to due legal process and punished, but instead, have continued to function. This is perplexing.
Instead of bringing those who have allegedly taken the bribe and given the bribe to the judicial process, the blame is being thrust on the MCI to dismantle it. This will allow the allegedly corrupt to go scot free, while punishing the MCI as an institution. Punish the corrupt, not the MCI."