Medical students and interns asked to report for COVID-19 duty on short notice

They alleged that they have been asked to pay for their own treatment if tested positive

Published - July 09, 2020 10:55 pm IST - Bengaluru

Final year MBBS students in private colleges and those pursuing internship claim they have been asked to report to fever clinics or COVID care centres on short notice. Many alleged that they have been asked to make own arrangements for accommodation, pay for their treatment if tested positive for COVID-19, and for tests if they go to a private laboratory.

An MBBS student at private medical college in Bengaluru said he got a message on Thursday morning asking him to report to their teaching hospital in two hours. “We were later told that we will have to go to the Department of Medical Education on Friday morning where we will be posted for COVID-19 duty. We have not been given any instructions,” the student said.

Many of these students in private hospitals, who are pursuing MBBS and are undertaking their compulsory one-year internship, are not paid, but others are paid in the range of ₹2,000 to ₹25,000 per month. This disparity has also rankled students. “We are not against being posted for COVID-19 duty, but we are urging the authorities concerned to ensure better planning and coordination. We also want the government to pay stipend if we are placed in public health facilities,” said a student. They alleged that college managements were unwilling to listen to their grievances and threatening to cut their attendance or initiate disciplinary action if they did not comply. An intern who works at a private medical college hospital in South Bengaluru said: “Four of the interns tested positive and three were hospitalised. They had to pay for their own treatment. In fact, we have been told that the college will bear the cost of one COVID-19 test and if we have to undergo another one, we have to pay for it.”

Worried about the safety of their families, students have moved out of their homes and are staying in hostels or shared accommodations. “We are also spending money on sanitisers and masks for our personal use,” said a student.

Monthly honorarium

Sources in the Medical Education Department pointed out that the government was planning to pay a monthly honorarium for students who were not receiving stipends. “We have submitted a proposal to the government and want to pay students from private medical colleges a fixed monthly sum if they are posted on COVID-19 duty,” said a senior official in the department. Several colleges had warned students of the possibility of being roped in. Earlier this week, the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences had sent a circular to all its affiliated colleges that all their interns, postgraduate students, staff in all departments and streams will have to be ready to report for COVID-19 duty on short notice.

“Every day the number of patients and beds is increasing. It is like reporting for war. Students will have to be ready to report as and when the need arises,” an official in the department stated.

Medical Education Minister K. Sudhakar said that if colleges do not pay interns stipend, we will write to the Medical Council of India to initiate action against them. “Regarding other grievances that the students have raised, if they send us specific complaints, we will attend to it immediately,” he said adding that final year MBBS students and interns will be placed in COVID Care Centres and fever clinics.

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