State government’s decision to assign undergraduate medical students for COVID management assistance at designated Covid-19 hospitals in Gujarat has not gone down too well with many students not turning up for duty.
The maximum resistance came from MBBS students of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation Medical Education Trust (AMC-MET) colleges owing to “no assurance” from the authorities regarding their safety.
Students from Surat’s Government Medical College (GMC), who were also resisting, mellowed down when the college dean issued an “appeal” holding out incentives like grace marks, honorarium and so on, for those reporting to duty.
At least four students that this paper spoke to from AMC-MET Medical College affiliated to LG Hospital and NHL Municipal Medical College affiliated to SVP Hospital, said that a meeting was held on Friday morning with deans of the two colleges as well as AMC-MET to discuss the students’ demand for separate quarantine facilities, rotational duty, stipend and food.
The meeting came after several students of the two colleges, who failed to mark their presence on the first day of the training module of July 22, received a notice from their respective deans on Thursday, threatening “strict proceedings under the Epidemic Diseases Act and in accordance with the law.”
While students refused to come on record fearing retaliation, the consensus remained that though the administration agreed to pay an “unofficial stipend”, there was no clarity on what it meant. While food and refreshments shall be provided, as was affirmed by the authorities, there was also no clarity on accommodation.
An administration official of AMC-MET Medical College, who was also part of the meeting, however denied the students’ claims and said, “All demands will be met. There is no issue of accommodation, transport or stipend, it has been resolved. They will be treated at par with our interns and residents, whom we pay ₹275 per day.”
When asked why it has not been given in writing, he said, “If they ask for it, we will. They haven’t so we haven’t. What is the need of having everything in writing? In such times, they are doctors first and it is their responsibility. Frankly, we need manpower to better manage our patients who are in home isolation and so that they can be better taken care of. That manpower has to come from somewhere. They cannot shirk from their responsibilities or say, compare their stipend etc. We did send out notices for those who did not attend the training module. Of the 133 students in the third year first part at AMC-MET Medical College, 60 attended the session, while 73 did not.”
Dr Pratik Patel, dean at NHL Municipal Medical College, said, “It has been made compulsory by the state government’s resolution, the decision is not up to us. We are giving exemptions to genuine reasons too. If kept voluntary, hardly 20-25 per cent will come and in some days we will probably see even fewer. It is a moral responsibility in such times… we already have physiotherapist, dental and nursing students serving.”
“We are providing everyone with PPE, N95 and all protective gear. We have now also submitted a proposal to the municipal commissioner for financial incentives for those who serve. We are providing taxi pick-ups and drops and providing breakfast. We do not think accommodation is required, but in case infected, they will be given the best treatment. Until now, of the 410 final-year students, 192 joined duty and of the remaining, I believe two-third are not in the city so it will take them some time to reach here and we have taken that into account too,” Patel added.
A student of NHL Medical College who was in Rajkot said, “How are we supposed to travel from here to Ahmedabad in a day’s notice? Plus there are concerns surrounding those who would be taking up hostel accommodation with respect to the fact that each room can house two persons so quarantine becomes practically ineffective.”
Several parents are expected to file a petition in the coming days, challenging the mandatory service of the students as is being demanded by AMC-MET.
In stark difference in the Government Medical College in Surat, the dean issued an ‘appeal’ and offered incentives for MBBS final-year students, who would assist in Covid-19 duty.
Requesting students to join duty by July 27, the letter underlines that for voluntarily participating students, “as a goodwill gesture and encouragement towards your (participating students’) selfless contribution in these demanding times of Covid-19,” the institute shall be adding 50 per cent grace internal marks to the internal marks given by the department concerned, will provide a certificate of appreciation accommodation, transportation, meals and an honorarium of Rs 10,000 per month.”
A student from Government Medical College, Surat said the turnaround probably came following a virtual meeting with college authorities, students and parents’ involvement. He said that around 30 undergraduate students have been attending duties since a few weeks while the college has approximately 150 students.
On Friday, the dean of Gujarat Medical Education Research Society (GMERS) Gandhinagar, issued an order announcing that its third-year Part-II students (semester 8) are expected to partake in the training module for ‘Covid assistance’, starting July 28. The module shall be conducted online, the order stated.
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