TN Govt ropes in 300 final year MBBS students for COVID duty. But why not trained docs who don't have jobs?

The roles of these students will primarily be tele-counseling and data entry, but they may also be tasked with hospital duty and training
Image for representational purpose| Pic: PTI
Image for representational purpose| Pic: PTI

In a first, the Tamil Nadu government has recruited at least 300 final year MBBS students for COVID-19 duty. The Chennai Corporation announced on Sunday that these students have been recruited as trainee medical officers. "A total of 135 students have come forward till Friday, and will take charge soon," said Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi.

Dr GR Ravindranath, General Secretary of Doctors Association for Social Equality told Edex that the decision is welcome, however, the government should look at hiring doctors who are trained and looking for jobs first. "Government should first appoint doctors, they have completed their training, post-graduation, over 15,000 are waiting to get jobs. They should be given priority at this point. After using them, if there are still vacancies, then the corporation can utilise medical students. If you appoint trained doctors for this, it will increase credibility and service quality. We are not against employing medical students but it should be the last resort," he said.  
The roles of these students will primarily be tele-counselling and data entry, but they may also be tasked with hospital duty and training. They will be employed for a period of three months, for a monthly salary of Rs 40,000. In an orientation programme held at the Ripon Building on Friday, Bedi told the students that they will work in two shifts, 8 am to 3 pm and 3 pm to 10 pm. "I urge you all to be mentally prepared for the COVID-19 duty. You are all doctors now," he told them, pointing out that it was the first time a civic body had reached out to students for COVID-19 work. About 150 students, along with their parents, attended the counselling sessions, according to a TNIE report.

During the training session, Deputy Commissioner (Health) Dr Alby John said that students will have to make calls to the patients in home quarantine and enquire about their SPO2 levels, medicine status and co-morbidities, among other medical matters. He said that the student-doctors will be posted in the tele-counseling centres at each of the 15 zones and it would be their task to ensure that patients get beds in time. "You have to ensure the patient gets a bed. If O2 levels are less than 90, you should arrange ambulances and refer them to COVID-19 hospitals," he told the students.

The students will also ensure that garbage collection from and food distribution to positive patients happens regularly. "Sometimes, the field staff may not do their roles of collecting garbage and giving food. So, if a patient raises a complaint to you, pull the staff up and inform the authorities. Ensure the services reach the patient," Corporation Commissioner Bedi told the students.

The students were made aware of the basic symptoms of COVID-19 and were sensitised to methods to approach patients. They were asked not to ignore even small symptoms like a mild fever. "As a doctor, a mild fever might be a small symptom for you but for a patient it is a huge one. So, do not ignore any symptoms they say and talk to them sensitively," Dr John told the attending students.

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