New Delhi: Delhi government hospitals and colleges have started preparations to engage medical students for Covid-19 duties after an order by the Aam Aadmi Party administration, despite objections raised by an umbrella body for resident doctors, Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA).
The Delhi government order to engage medical students was issued by the health department on 18 November, after the Arvind Kejriwal dispensation increased the number of ICU beds in hospitals in the wake of the rising number of Covid cases in the national capital.
The order asked hospitals to engage fourth or fifth-year MBBS students, interns and BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) students to assist Covid doctors at a fixed honorarium of Rs 1,000 for an 8-hour shift and Rs 2,000 for a 12-hour shift.
But the FORDA, in a letter to Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain Sunday, objected to his department’s order, saying undergraduate medical students are “not skilled enough yet to be posted for Covid duties”. It said: “They are still under training to acquire necessary clinical skills and are at higher risk of contracting the infection.”
Requesting Hon’ble Health Minister @SatyendarJain to recruit Qualified Doctors to tackle the #COVID19 situation in Delhi & to reconsider the decision of posting Under-Graduate MBBS Students for COVID duties @ArvindKejriwal @ANI @ians_india @timesofindia @IndianExpress @the_hindu pic.twitter.com/ay5UmdTOaC
— FORDA INDIA (@FordaIndia) November 21, 2020
When ThePrint approached Special Secretary (Health) S.M. Ali’s office through phone calls, an official said he is busy and not available for comment.
‘No steps for recruitment of qualified doctors’
FORDA also said adequate steps haven’t been taken to recruit qualified doctors.
“We have repeatedly suggested to run special drives at the state level to create a pool of qualified doctors to be deployed in Covid care. There needs to be an adequate healthcare workforce to manage the ongoing Covid situation in Delhi, and there is no dearth of qualified doctors, which is evident from the number of applications for the posts of Junior Resident (JR) or Senior Resident (SR),” it stated in the letter.
FORDA added: “Unfortunately, neither have there been adequate steps for recruitment of qualified doctors, nor have undergraduate medical students undergone any special training to work in such unforeseen circumstances.”
The body’s president Shivaji Dev Barman told ThePrint that it is yet to receive a reply from the government.
Hospitals start process
Meanwhile, Delhi government hospitals have begun preparations to engage medical students for Covid duties.
Dr Nandini Sharma, dean of Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), said: “We have made the list as per the government order, but are waiting to finalise it, since we have to get the consent of each and every student and intern on the list. We have no authority to force anyone.”
LNJP Hospital, Delhi’s largest Covid facility, is set to engage medical students and interns from the MAMC.
Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, or GTB hospital, will get interns and medical students from University College of Medical Sciences.
A senior doctor at GTB Hospital also said preparations had begun. “Listing work is being done; roster is yet to be made,” the doctor said.
Some doctors have hailed the Delhi government’s move, saying medical students are young, and therefore, they’re in a better position to treat patients during a pandemic.
Dr N.N. Mathur, director at the central government-run Lady Hardinge Medical College and Hospital, said the move is “much needed”.
“For now, only Delhi government hospitals and colleges will do it, but if the Centre issues a notification for us well, it won’t be a problem. In fact, interns are already engaged in assisting and managing patients. Because this is a pandemic situation, involving them in Covid duty is like increasing hands to work. It will be beneficial. It is a good move,” Mathur said.
Dr Jugal Kishore, head of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital, concurred, saying there is “no harm” in employing medical students and interns.
“They are young, hence, the risk of severe infections in them is comparatively lesser than in senior doctors. Young people are more suitable now. This shouldn’t be an issue,” Kishore said.
“Medicine is a practical profession, not theoretical. Hence, if they join Covid duties, it is beneficial for them as well in terms of experience. Juniors should be engaged in these kinds of epidemics, this is an opportunity of a lifetime for them.”