The 2015 batch MBBS students at government medical colleges in Kerala alleged that their one-year internship is being extended, although there is no formal order yet.

Doctors wearing blue PPE kit in a hospital building outside a room
Coronavirus Education Friday, April 16, 2021 - 08:54

The 2015 batch of MBBS students at government medical colleges across Kerala are on a protest on social media. According to the Kerala House Surgeons' Association (KHSA), the authorities of the medical colleges are planning to extend their mandatory one-year internship (as part of their 5.5-year course) to three more months. Although the government medical colleges are yet to issue a formal order, KHSA alleged that the Kerala Health Secretary has made such a recommendation to the Directorate of Medical Education (DME). If such an order is issued, the house surgeons said they will resort to a strike against the forced extension of their Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internship (CRRI).

"We started the house surgency programme on April 14, 2020. That was the time COVID-19 badly hit the state. Apart from regular postings, we did additional COVID-19 duties too. For hours, we worked inside PPE kits. We did 48 to 72 hours of duty. We also worked in fever clinics and COVID-19 ICU. All these showed our social responsibility as there were no economic or academic benefits for us from these COVID-19 duties," Nibu John, a house surgeon in Kottayam Medical College, wrote on his Facebook page.

According to the Kerala House Surgeon’s Association, the authorities have given a three-month extension to the existing batch (2015-2021) of house surgeons. They said that they anticipated that there would be a shortage of house surgeons in 2021 as the following batch — the 2016 batch — was yet to take their final exam. A medical student can do the compulsory internship programme (where they work with different departments) only after completing the final exam. The final exams for the 2016 batch have been scheduled for May 2021, while the house surgeons of the 2015 batch completed the internship programme on April 14, 2021.

While there has been no formal notification to continue, the house surgeons have not gone to the medical colleges and are going online to register their protest over possible forced extension.

Anticipating the shortage, the house surgeons alleged that they had warned the authorities about this earlier, but no steps were taken to solve the issue. "Authorities knew medical colleges will face a crisis (shortage of house surgeons). Yet, they did not make any prior planning to address this. They are trying to find an excuse for their irresponsibility by forcing an extension for the house surgeons, whom they consider as slaves," wrote Nibu.

Benhur Nasheer, secretary of KHSA, also told TNM that they had written multiple letters to the college authorities, enquiring about the measures they intend to take to deal with a shortage of house surgeons as the exams of the next batch would start only in May. “But, we did not receive any response yet. Later, we learnt that the state Health Department had directed the Department of Medical Education to extend our house surgency, although there is no order yet. But, as soon as we get it, we will start our protests," he said.

The house surgeons pointed out that this extension would affect their future as they cannot prepare for the post-graduation entrance examination.

“The extension in the disguise of public service is inhuman and illegal,” said Nibu, adding, “This is happening in a place where all COVID-19 protocols were breached during the election campaign." 

Read: How prolonged COVID-19 duty has hampered training of medicos and resident doctors 







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