Regularisation of stipend has been a perennial issue for medicos pursuing their PG or DM degrees in government medical colleges in Andhra Pradesh.
Raghuram's (name changed on request) sister is four years junior to him. She has just completed her engineering and has got a job offer for Rs. 30,000 a month from a software company. While Raghuram, doing his PG in a government medical college, finds himself caught in a quandary.
The budding doctor is stuck at a stipend of Rs. 18,000 per month and it comes once in every three or four months, and that too not in full.
Well, this is the scenario for almost all the medicos who are pursuing their PG or DM degrees in any of the government medical colleges in Andhra Pradesh, and the main reason being the stipend issue. Regularisation of stipends has been a perennial issue with medical education in the State. Every time the junior doctors design a way of protest, the government comes out with an order, but it is rarely implemented and the junior doctors go back to square one after a year or so. And this time they have again taken up the fight against the government for regularisation and hike of their stipend.
“The stipend issue has been persisting since last four decades. Every time we voice our protest the government issues an order for regularisation, which does not have a percolating effect, for lack of funds in the treasury,” says Prasanth a PG student at Andhra Medical College and Executive Member of APJUDA (Andhra Pradesh Junior Doctors Association).
“Medical study is no longer limited to the basic MBBS degree. To become a successful doctor one has to put at least 14 years of study, covering MBBS, internships at various stages, postgraduation and super specialisation. So by the time a person completes all the required degrees, he or she attains the minimum age of 35 years.
And by that time, most of them are married and it is very difficult to manage a family with a stipend of Rs. 18,000 and especially when it does not come on time. Desperation and frustration is bound to creep up,” says the former principal of Andhra Medical College, C.V. Rao.
It is not the age and the number of years that the budding medicos are scared of. It is the amount of the stipend and its regularity that bothers them.
Apart from regularity of the stipend, the medicos are voicing for a hike. Previously the stipend was only Rs. 8,000 and last year it was hiked to Rs. 18,000. And they feel that it is very low compared to the Central institutes. Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research pays a stipend of Rs. 56,000, JIPMER offers Rs. 45,000, AIIMS pays Rs. 45,000 and NIMS gives Rs. 35,000 towards stipend.
“Even the Government colleges in Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Jharkhand pay a higher stipend. In Uttar Pradesh it is Rs. 40,000 and in Jharkhand about Rs. 30,000. The government issued a G.O. in 2000 that the stipend would be hiked by 15 per cent every two years. So far there is no effect on it. We are not demanding what the Central institutes pay, we are just asking for a hike of about 40 per cent. The government has to consider the cost of living, the food index prices and the number of years that we put in to become a doctor in comparison with other professional degrees, before taking a decision,” says Prasanth.
Dr. Chandrasekhar a member of APJUDA suggests, “We are not only protesting for the stipend issue, we also want to highlight the poor infrastructure that we have in government hospitals. We come here to learn and if proper learning environment is not created then what is the use? The Andhra Pradesh government has spent over Rs. 3,000 crore in the last two years for its popular scheme ‘Aarogyasri'. The same amount can be diverted to government hospitals for bettering the infrastructure, facilities and services. The government hospitals are meant to serve the poor for free and we are there to do so.”
The compulsory one-year of rural service after MBBS, PG and super specialisation that is to commence from this year is another bone of contention. Dr. C.V. Rao adds, “The idea of rural service is good, but without building the proper infrastructure and creating good work conditions, it is going to be a futile exercise. The junior doctors should have the facilities where their willingness to learn would increase. They should not be reduced to paramedics.”
The junior doctors feel that the interest for medical study is on the decline and something has to be done to stop the trend.
“In EAMCET-2003, about 85,000 students wrote the examination for medical study in comparison to 1.2 lakh for engineering, and in 2012 the figure was about 45,000 and 3 lakh, correspondingly. The drop is significant,” says Dr. Prasanth.
“The idea of rural service is good, but without building the proper infrastructure and creating good work conditions, it is going to be a futile exercise.”