Why did over 2,300 final-year medical students petition Kerala HC seeking exam postponement?

Around 2,300 MBBS final-year students have petitioned the HC seeking the postponement of their examinations, citing insufficient attendance and clinical exposure
Image for representational purpose only
Image for representational purpose only

Never would have a court case seen such a large number of petitioners signing up for a single cause as the one being filed with the Kerala High Court by the final-year MBBS students from various medical colleges in the state against Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS). Around 2,300 MBBS final-year students have petitioned the HC seeking the postponement of their examinations, citing insufficient attendance and clinical exposure.

A group of students had earlier petitioned the court seeking postponement of the examinations. However, the ruling went against them since it was deemed to be an issue faced by a few. This time around, the students have come out in mass seeking the redressal of the issue.

“As per the university syllabus prescribed by the National Medical Council (NMC) and the Medical Council of India (MCI), a final-year MBBS student has to complete 792 hours of clinical classes. However, due to the pandemic that saw the students getting confined to their homes and attending online classes, this stipulation couldn’t be met,” said a student on the condition of anonymity.

According to the petitioners, who are being represented by senior N N Sugunabalan, Tittu Jose Chakkanad and Keerthi Muralidharan, their situation can be considered similar to the students from China who are forced to study medicine online without any clinical experience.

“While they have limitations, it is not so in our case. The university can postpone the examinations by at least two months and provide us with the opportunity to clock the required time in clinical exposure,” said another student.

According to the students, due to the pandemic, the out-patient, in-patient and even many other services have been disrupted. “The hospitals, both government and private, were catering only to COVID patients and all elective procedures were cancelled,” said the student.

“Our physical classes began only in August last year and KUHS wants to conduct the examinations from March 31. The maximum hours that we managed to clock was around 500. We never got to examine patients or go on rounds with the specialists dealing with complicated cases. In effect, we can be deemed as medical students who have no idea about many procedures or diseases. So, if we are forced to write the final-year examinations at this juncture, it will be tough for us to meet the requirements mentioned by the NMC for getting the medical practitioner’s licence and admission to PG courses.”

Another student said, “Those who clear the MBBS examinations are posted to the various primary health and family health clinics. It will be a disservice to the patients who will come to consult us, since we have limited knowledge, at these centres. We may not be able to identify many of the symptoms and this is a serious threat.” According to the students, the university is citing the example of Karnataka and Gujarat universities that have completed the examinations.

“However, it should be noted that the pandemic wave always happened two months late in our state. Our situation is very much similar to Telangana where the examinations have been postponed. If Telangana university can hold the examinations two months late, why can’t KUHS? The varsity is citing NEET as an excuse. However, it should be noted that NEET too has been postponed taking into consideration Telangana’s request,” said the student.

They alleged that the university officials are giving conflicting statements regarding the issue.  “While the Board of Studies says that it had suggested the postponement of the examinations to the vice-chancellor, he wants to go ahead with them. Even the colleges had urged the VC to reconsider the examination date,” alleged the student. However, KUHS Vice-Chancellor Dr Mohanan Kunnummal said, “The university is acting as per the direction of the NMC and also based on the HC ruling on a petition filed by around 35 students. The NMC has directed the completion of the examinations by March-end.

“However, a group of students had petitioned the HC seeking postponement of the examinations, which was denied by the court. The court had set the date for starting the examinations as March 31. As for the students who are not ready for the examinations, the court had directed the varsity to allow them to appear after six months. Also, the varsity was directed to consider this as their first appearance and no fee was to be sourced from them,” he said.

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