Medical students will now have to do more than complete a five-and-a-half-year medical course to use the title of 'doctor'. The draft Indian Medical Council (Amendment) Bill 2016, unveiled by the union health ministry on Thursday, said they will also have to pass the National Exit Test (NEXT). The test is expected to create a level playing field in medical education, increasingly becoming privatized.
A central government official said NEXT would improve the quality of medical education in the country and help benchmark students. "It will substitute three tests, including NEET for postgraduate admissions, recruitment for central health services and the foreign graduate medical examination," said the official, adding it will be an outcome-based test. "The results of how students from individual colleges have performed in NEXT will be made public. If a college has over 90 per cent students clearing the test, it will automatically act as an indicator. Students can make an informed choice while selecting colleges," said the official.
Dr P Shingare, who heads Maharashtra's department of medical education and research, said NEXT is a good move. "How can we equate a student from X university with one from Y University? NEXT will bring about standardisation," he said.
A professor said inspection by authorities can just rate the infrastructure of a college and only the outcome of NEXT can be a tangible parameter to determine the quality of that college.
However, cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Shetty, a former member of the Medical Council of India, felt the draft's provisions are only suitable for an "economy of excess" that has an adequate number of doctors.
Reservation for medical officers evoked the sharpest comments. Dr Shetty said, "The brightest people should be allowed to pursue post-graduate studies. We are here encouraging them to take a break in their education when, ideally, they should specialize before they turn 30 years old."
"In the last 20 years, 100 medical officers took up post-graduate studies every year. But none of these 2,000 doctors ever returned to the government system," said Dr Shingare.
Dr Gautam Sen, a former MCI member, said, "This is nothing but reduction in meritocracy. We already have reservation at undergraduate levels and post-graduate levels. What is the need to introduce another quota?" He said the government should introduce the complete Medical Council reforms instead of such piecemeal efforts. "The bill has been cleared by Parliament. So why is the government still not introducing the entire bill?" he said.