House surgeons in the city’s medical college hospitals are sporting black flags demanding specific guidelines at their workplaces.

The trainee doctors, who are from Madras Medical College as well Kilpauk and Stanley Medical Colleges, have come together under the banner of Tamil Nadu Medical College Trainee Doctors Association.

They said that over the past four months, they have not learnt much about treating patients as they are forced to do the work of paramedical staff.

Medical students pursuing an undergraduate degree, do a year of internship at the hospital attached to their college after completing four years of coursework, before they graduate. During the internship period they are posted in various departments and specialities — the medical, surgical and obstetric wings of the hospital — to help them learn their work.

But according to the interns they are not leaning much about diagnosis and treatment, as they are occupied by routine jobs — such as collecting blood samples from wards and taking them to the laboratory — jobs normally carried out by ward assistants and nurses.

“Sometimes we even end up pushing stretchers or collecting blood bags from the blood bank. This is the job of ward assistants. We do not learn anything about diagnosing a patient’s ailment. Instead, we are administering injections, which is the job of nurses,” said an intern from MMC.

Interns say they work for 36 hours continuously on admission days, and sometimes go an entire week without a break, doing such routine work.

“We are so tired that we make mistakes and patients suffer. Such work robs us of precious time to learn,” an intern at KMC said.

The interns have sent their complaints and demand for guidelines to their respective deans. They have sought 12-hour shifts and say they want to treat patients.

According to members of the association, interns in eight colleges in the State have joined the protest. They have threatened to escalate their protest next week if no action is taken.

The interns cited rule 14 of the Medical Council of India’s regulation for graduate education to emphasise that they have not been allowed to learn during the “golden period” allotted to them “to interact with patients”.

On Tuesday, a group of interns from MMC met health minister K.C. Veeramani who directed MMC dean V. Kanagasabai to address their grievances.

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