‘Inclusion of MBBS students is a bad idea; seniors need to protect coming generations, not use them as cannon-fodder’.

New Delhi: Amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal on Monday announced that fourth-year and fifth-year MBBS students and dentists will now be allowed to assist in hospitals and Covid-19 Intensive Care Units (ICU) to meet the manpower shortage. The fourth-year and fifth-year MBBS students and dental doctors will assist duty doctors at the honorarium of Rs 1,000 for an eight-hour shift and Rs 2,000 for a 12-hour shift per day, as per the official orders. In the case of interns, the honorarium would be over and above their stipend, the order stated.
On 18 November, the Health Department had issued an order to assign medical students, interns, and dentists for Covid duties. However, the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA), an umbrella body for resident doctors, is raising an objection over this order. The FORDA wrote a letter to Health Minister Satyendra Jain and stated that undergraduate medical students are “not skilled enough yet to be posted for Covid duties”.
“They are still under training to acquire necessary clinical skills and are at higher risk of contracting the infection,” the letter stated. Meanwhile, hospitals have begun preparations to engage medical students for Covid duties.
Dr Keshave Singh, RDA President, Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), told The Sunday Guardian: “At present, interns are posted in the green area and they were doing duties prior to the government order. BDS pass-out students were also involved earlier during previous waves and then when cases came down, they were relieved to treat non-Covid patients. At present regarding MBBS undergraduate, no roster is made.”
According to reports, LNJP Hospital, Delhi’s largest Covid facility, is set to engage medical students and interns from the MAMC. Meanwhile, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, or GTB hospital, will get interns and medical students from the University College of Medical Sciences.
Dr Siddharth, Secretary of Resident Doctors’ Association of Hindu Rao Hospital, told The Sunday Guardian: “Inclusion of MBBS students is a bad idea; seniors need to protect the coming generations and not use them as cannon-fodder. Not every senior doctor is elderly. Many are less than 45 years of age. They have a responsibility towards patients too. Of course, if the situation is dire, then every doctor, regardless of age and rank, will have to participate. But it’s a moral responsibility of senior doctors to protect our UG students. It’s not about how we will defeat this plague; victory will come, but policymakers and senior doctors need to ask their conscience how we achieve that. And then there’s the question of whether teaching hospitals should be Covid centers in the first place. The government already has more permanent salaried specialist doctors (including critical care physicians). But those hospitals aren’t Covid centers. It’s clear that the strategy to fight Covid is not equitable, but also exploitative in nature.”
Dr Manish, another Resident from Hindu Rao Hospital, told The Sunday Guardian: “Many qualified doctors are waiting for a job, but the government wants to deploy for Covid duties medical students who just started reading clinical subjects a few months back. They are not going to college or clinical posting for almost seven months. It’s not a good decision. In short, if you have fully qualified doctors available, then why juniors are being troubled?”
However, several doctors The Sunday Guardian spoke to, hailed this move and said that medical students are in a better position to treat patients during a pandemic as they are young.
“Medicine is a practical profession. This pandemic will give them exposure and experience-wise, it will be beneficial for them,” a doctor from Safdarjung Hospital told The Sunday Guardian.