Updated: December 6, 2021 10:27:30 pm
Over 5,000 medical students in Maharashtra decided to halt work in outpatient departments (OPD)s on Monday to protest against the delay in holding counselling sessions for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)-PG across India.
However, the protest didn’t affect non-emergency services. Senior doctors and faculty members attended patients on OPD. Serious patients were referred to the emergency ward where resident doctors provided treatment. Some non-emergency surgeries were postponed. Later on Monday, after a meeting with teh state government, the protest was called off and resident doctors decided to return to OPD duty from Tuesday.
While the NEET-PG examination was held in September 2021, counselling for admissions has not been conducted yet. This is due to a pending case with the Supreme Court over the Centre’s decision to provide 10 per cent reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in undergraduate and postgraduate admissions in medical and dental courses across India. Presently, the hearing in the case has been postponed to January 6, 2022.
“First the examination was postponed from April to September 2021. Now counselling has been delayed, which has wasted an entire academic year for PG aspirants,” said Dr Pranav Jadhav, vice-president (central) Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD).
After a meeting with state minister Aditya Thackeray, MARD decided to call off its protest and return to OPD duty from Tuesday. In the meeting, the state promised to recruit junior residents (non-academic) to cover up the deficient number of resident doctors to take care of the patients in Maharashtra. Also, the state has promised to request the Centre to fasten the counselling.
“The Central MARD in its state meeting has decided to reduce the intensity of agitation that is ongoing in concordance with National resident doctors associations for the time being and resume the OPD duty. However, the central MARD will continue supporting Nationwide strike,” reads the statement of MARD.
“The next hearing is in January and it will take another two-three months to start counselling. By then the state will declare admission of the next batch. So, we are completely confused about the whereabouts of our admissions,” said Dr Sangeeta Pal, a post-graduation aspirant from Aurangabad.
The delay in admissions has further weakened the skeleton staff at civic and government-run hospitals. With the flattening of the pandemic curve, hospitals with shortage of doctors are struggling to provide treatment to the increasing number of non-Covid patients. Resident doctors are also involved in the mass immunization programme and monsoon-care management.
With growing concerns about the new Omicron variant, resident doctors are worried about possible rise in workload. According to data procured by The Indian Express, more than 1,000 resident doctors across the state have contracted Covid-19 – 387 at KEM, 251 at Sion, 417 at Nair and 21 in Cooper Hospital.
“Due to the extreme pressure, it is not only mentally draining us but we are failing to provide adequate care to patients. And if the state witnesses a third wave due to Omicron, hospitals will not even have doctors to treat critical patients,” said Dr Yadav, national co-convener, Indian Medical Association-Junior Doctor Network (IMA-JDN).
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