Published: 02nd September 2021
Is NEET reducing the number of government doctors in super speciality courses?
While 15.7 per cent of seats were secured by service doctors in 2018-19, only 9.42 per cent bagged seats in 2019-20. It rose to 16 per cent in 2020-21
The number of doctors in government service securing admissions to super speciality courses has witnessed a drastic fall since the Union government introduced the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in 2017-18. If the trend holds, doctors fear there won’t be enough specialists in government service in a decade.
According to data from the Directorate of Medical Education, less than 17 per cent of service doctors got super speciality seats post-NEET, compared to over 40 per cent before 2017. In 2017-18, the first year of admissions based on NEET, only six per cent of service doctors secured seats.
The figure improved slightly in the next three years, but the representation of service doctors in super speciality courses has not reached the pre-NEET figures. While 15.7 per cent of seats were secured by service doctors in 2018-19, only 9.42 per cent bagged seats in 2019-20. It rose to 16 per cent in 2020-21.
Before NEET, TN conducted a State-level entrance examination, and also reserved 50 per cent seats for government doctors. Further, in 2016, the Supreme Court directed TN to forgo the policy of providing super speciality seats only to domicile students and allow those from other States also to apply.
Dr S Perumal Pillai, president of the Legal Coordination Committee for Government Doctors, said, “If it goes on, there won’t be any super speciality doctors to cater to the poor. This year’s batch of doctors from other States left for their homes after the course.”
Dr T Janakiraman, an anaesthesiologist in Chennai, who fights for the State reservation policy, said, "Government hospitals are entirely run by the State fund, and there is no contribution from the Centre. Thus, it cannot open Tamil Nadu medical seats for everybody."
Tamil Nadu is the only State to have a high number of super speciality seats—369. The seats were increased from 189 in 2014 to 369 in 2020-21. This was made possible by the efforts of the State which has a robust healthcare system, the doctors said.
"The backbone of TN's health care system is the 50 per cent reservation for service doctors. That is the reason the State never faces any problem in opening new medical colleges. There is no scarcity for faculty. Even in government headquarters hospitals, a patient gets super speciality care. This is not the case in north Indian States. If there is no reservation, then the system will collapse," said Janakiraman.
Meanwhile, Dr P Balakrishnan, convenor of the Federation of Government Doctors Association, said,"We have represented the State to pass a Special Act in this Assembly session for 50 per cent reservation for government service doctors. Also, an appeal has to be made against the 2016 SC judgment."