NEET-PG 2023 cut-off date disqualifies over 50% of current interns, medical associations urge govt. to intervene

The examination is set to take place on March 5, but some students are requesting a delay due to extended academic cycles and the COVID-19 pandemic
Pic: EdexLive
Pic: EdexLive

On January 7, 2023, the National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences (NBEMS) announced the dates for the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test for Postgraduate (NEET-PG 2023) examination. The cut-off date for internships has caused significant distress among doctors, as they assert that it disqualifies more than half of the current group of interns. Students and medical associations have used Twitter to express their grievances. “As always NEET PG is creating chaos! Internship Completion Criteria is 31/03/23 (75% of intern doctors of batch 2017 across India aren't eligible) Lack of coordination every year!! PS: Hopefully they will extend Eligibility Criteria,” writes Dr Meet Ghonia on Twitter. 

What happened?
In order to regularise the NEET-PG admission process, candidates who have completed their mandatory one-year internship on or before March 31, 2023, will be eligible to take the examination. However, students have complained that due to COVID-19 and other academic delays, more than 50% of the current batch of interns began their internships in April or later. As a result, it is estimated that 80-85% of students from the 2017 batch will become ineligible for the examination.

In light of this, Dr Rohan Krishnan, the National Chairman of the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA) said,"It is imperative that the government work toward a two-way solution. First, to change the eligibility directive for this year. Second, to ensure that colleges declare the final year results on time such that graduates can start their internships on time."

The NEET-PG 2023 examination is scheduled to take place on March 5, but several students are calling for a delay in the examination. They argue that the extended academic cycles have left them with less time to study for exams. Others, however, are tired of the constant postponements and are simply requesting that the eligibility requirements be modified. "Graduates usually get a duty-free period after internships are over to prepare for their NEET-PG exam, but we did not get that option thanks to the academic delay for COVID. So, I would personally prefer that the dates are also postponed along with the extension in the internship cut-off date," says Ragini Sharma, from the Maulana Azad Medical College (MAMC), Delhi. 

Will the competition double next year?
"This is extremely frustrating since I have been putting in hours for study after heavy duty. The examination will become considerably simpler as a large number of candidates are automatically disqualified," says Ragini, and her batch from MAMC is three days short of the internship cut-off date. She adds, "It is unfair that students of MAMC, one of the best universities in the nation, would be disqualified in this manner." 

Dr Lakhan Prakash Gupta from the Aligarh Muslim University, who is ten days short of the cut-off criteria, reminds us that the competition will also double next year. He says, "Not only will it become easier for those appearing this year, but also next year, the competition will double. The central government institutes, like mine, aren't able to meet the eligibility even though they are usually ahead of things." To recall, NEET-PG might get replaced by the National Exit Test (NeXT) next year. 

FORDA, FAIMA, IMA and other associations demand revision of criteria
FORDA (Federation of Resident Doctors Association), FAIMA, IMA (Indian Medical Association) and other associations wrote letters to NBE and the Health Minister to demand a revision of the eligibility criteria. Sharing the letter sent to the Union Health Minister, FORDA writes on Twitter, "Urgent action needed! FORDA calls for postponement of NEET PG ‘23 eligibility deadline to protect the interests of interns across India. Current batch of most interns deemed ineligible-Unprecedented in history! Save their future!" 

Dr Suvranka Datta of IMA informs via Twitter that the organisation is in touch with both the NMC and NBEMS. He further shared the letter that IMA wrote to the Executive Director of the NBEMS. The letter states, "...all students will miss their opportunity to seek postgraduate education as the NBE criteria notification dates do not synchronize with the dates of the completion of internships at various parts of country."

A double-edged sword?
The president of FORDA, Dr Aviral Mathur, calls the situation a double-edged sword that would entail a chain reaction. "We want the eligibility criteria to be revised, but a revision would also imply that the admissions would happen late and the chain reaction of postponement will continue. We hope for a revision, but we cannot suggest how. The National Medical Council (NMC) will have to come up with a just and holistic way to make sure that the majority benefits from the decision," he concludes. 

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