The Tamil Nadu postgraduate (PG) government doctors are one of the least paid in the country as per the data released by the Medical Counseling Committee. The data says that a PG doctor of Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi receives a stipend of Rs 1,06,242 per month as against a PG doctor of Stanley Medical College who receives only Rs 42,000 per month, throwing light on the stark pay parity.
Though the Medical Counseling Committee data shows that they are paid Rs 42,000 in the final year of their course, PG doctors that TNM spoke to said that they received only Rs 40,000 per month as stipend in 2019.
Three years ago in 2017, the PG doctors in Tamil Nadu were receiving only Rs 25,000 as stipend per month. However, after students agitated against the state government with the demand to increase the stipend, the state government increased the pay.
In an order dated August 25, 2018, the Tamil Nadu government had decided to increase the rate of stipend for Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internees, Postgraduate Degree/Diploma and Higher Specialty students including M.Ch (Neurosurgeon 6 years course) students from April 1, 2018.
According to this order, a PG degree student would get Rs 35,000 per month in the first year of service, followed by Rs 37,500 per month in the second year and Rs 40,000 per month in the third year.
“The government also directs that automation annual increase of Rs 600 for Compulsory Rotatory Residential Internees (CRRIs) and Rs 1,000 for PG/Higher Specialty students be sanctioned,” Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said in the government order.
However, despite the lesser pay, the automation annual increase of Rs 1,000 every year has not been given for the past two years, Post Graduate doctors said. “Every year we should have received a hike of Rs 1000, so in 2020 a PG doctor studying in the final year should receive Rs 42,000 as claimed by the Medical Counseling Committee data. However, since the sanction still remains on the paper, we are given only Rs 40,000 in the year we graduate,” a PG doctor told TNM.
“For a young doctor, by the time we save Rs 2 lakh, we would be 30-35 years. Our lives are not like what society thinks. The post graduate doctors work for 12 to 14 hours a day and still earn a meager amount. Yet the problem is not that we need more money but the problem is we are not given money for the work we do. We are underpaid and exploited,” another PG doctor added.
The postgraduate doctors are also not eligible for the benefits given to assistant professors or other doctors since they are considered as students.
During the fight against coronavirus pandemic things get even worse, they said. As postgraduate students do not fall under the category of doctors or professors, they are not even eligible for the Rs 50 lakh pay provided to the families of frontline workers in case they die while on COVID-19 duty. They are also not eligible for the insurance announced by the government for the doctors, PG doctors say.
The postgraduate doctors are among overburdened frontline workers currently. As many as 42 PG students in Madras Medical College got COVID-19 in June and four others from MMC and Coimbatore Medical College Hospital got COVID-19 in April. The PG students alleged that they were given faulty PPE kits, and also maintained that the seven-day quarantine period was not enough, due to which the infection spread quickly.
According to the data obtained from the Medical Counseling Committee, non-governmental service doctors in the final year are paid the most in New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Jharkhand. A PG doctor receives Rs 1,00,258 per month in the King George Medical University in Uttar Pradesh and Rs 85,727 is paid to a PG doctor at Rajendra Institute of Medical Science in Jharkhand per month.
Among the least paid three states are Puducherry, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. A PG doctor from Indira Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute in Puducherry receives 42,000 per month and although a PG doctor working in Stanley Medical College Hospital in Tamil Nadu supposed to receive the same amount, the salaries of Tamil nadu doctors in the first two year are still low and the final year students are not receiving the full amount of Rs 42,000. Lastly, the PG doctors in Andhra Pradesh receive Rs 39,543 per month in the Andhra Medical College in Visakhapatnam.
This shows the stark pay parity, where a PG doctor working in a government hospital in Delhi receives one-and-a-half times more salary than a doctor working in Tamil Nadu.
“Most of the hospitals function only with the help of the postgraduate students and interns. The faculty and the chief doctors only provide instruction to the postgraduate students, who carry out the work. This is the scenario almost across India, we have very limited medical workforce so the work pressure is obviously more on PG doctors and interns,” another PG doctor working in a government hospital in Chennai said.
However, the Tamil Nadu Medical Students’ Association states that there is a reason for the PG doctors to earn less stipend when compared to their counterparts in the country. “The reason for the lower pay is because the assistant professors are also paid poorly in the state. How can the government raise our pay without increasing the pay of the assistant professors? The doctors and assistant professors staged a protest last year and they are yet to receive proper response even now,” a member of Tamil Nadu Medical Student Association said.
The Tamil Nadu Medical Students’ Association demanded that the government increase the pay for all PG doctors and also provide a compensation of Rs 2 lakh for PG doctors, who contract the coronavirus while on duty. They demanded that the government make them eligible for the insurance scheme announced for frontline workers.
“Yes it is true that the medical professionals are paid the least in Tamil Nadu. But this should not be the case and we have been fighting for this for a long time now. The Tamil Nadu government should increase the pay and provide pay for the PG students and doctors on par with the central government stipend or salary,” General Secretary Dr Raveendranath of Doctors Association for Social Equality said
An insider in the Department of Medical Health too maintained that the pay should be the same for all the non-service postgraduate doctors but refused to comment on the automation annual increase.
TNM has reached out to the Director of Medical Education, Narayana Babu for comment and is awaiting a response.