New Delhi: A government committee has recommended cutting down by a year the duration of the five-and-a-half-year MBBS course. Medical experts and educators in the country, however, believe the course cannot be shortened any further.
At present, the MBBS degree takes four and a half years of studying and one year of internship to be completed. However, a Group of Ministers (GoM) on Health, headed by AYUSH Minister Shripad Yesso Naik, has suggested that the course should be reduced to four years and a half, including a six-month internship period.
As reported by ThePrint on 8 December, the recommendations were made in a report titled ‘Converting Adversity into Opportunity to Strengthen Healthcare Infrastructure in post-Covid19 India’, which was submitted to the government in October.
Apart from shortening the duration of the course, the report also suggested mandatory two-year service in rural areas for all doctors.
But medical experts do not approve of the recommendations made by the GoM.
According to Dr B. Geetanjali, director at AIIMS Bhubaneswar, the course is already the shortest it can be.
“As of now, I don’t think we can shorten MBBS courses any further. It is the shortest right now because there is a lot of knowledge to be learnt,” she told ThePrint.
“Courses also have to be internalised and there are many skills to be taught. In addition to that, the attitude also needs to be taught,” Dr Geetanjali added.
She noted that a medical degree requires holistic teaching. “We’re looking for a well rounded course that is holistic and can teach students how to give proper treatment, prevent diseases and promote good health. It is not just about treatment alone, we are looking to get doctors who will promote, prevent and treat.”
‘Quality shouldn’t be compromised while dealing with human life’
Dr P.K. Julka, oncologist and former dean at AIIMS Delhi, told ThePrint that MBBS is just a basic medical degree and shortening it is not a good idea.
“The idea of MBBS for 4.5 years and one year internship is good enough. Shortening courses doesn’t mean you’re making good doctors,” he said.
Dr Julka also pointed out that stress levels of medical students were already high and compromising on the quality of education will not help matters.
“While dealing with human life, we shouldn’t compromise on quality,” he said.
Several health experts also criticised the report’s recommendation to reduce the internship period to six months from one year.
Dr Jyoti Bindal, dean of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College, Indore, said, “If you see how these 12 months for internship have been decided, you will find that students are deputed to different departments.”
She added: “How can you reduce the internship to six months? Unless, you compromise on some departments. So, it has be a one-year internship.”
Posting in rural areas
Some doctors, however, were in favour of mandatory rural posting, also recommended by the GoM.
Dr Abhijit Sarma, superintendent at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital in Assam, said, “This is a good step. I advocate that doctors should go to rural areas and see patients.”
“There is a huge difference in the doctor-patient ratio. But, if we can have our rural masses being treated by doctors, it will prove to be a good step altogether,” he added.
Dr Geetanjali, however, pointed out that there was already a system of rural posting for doctors in place.
According to the existing system, students have to execute a bond at the time of admission to postgraduate in government colleges that they would serve in public hospitals and health centres after completing the course. However, this system is not uniform across all states.
“There is a bond but the problem is that you can make any kind of rule, but people will find a way to break it or go around it,” she said.