Published: 20th July 2023
“Non-medicos can’t teach patient care”: Doctors to rally for quality medical education at Jantar Mantar, Delhi
The demonstration commenced at 10 am from the National Medical Commission (NMC) office. Subsequently, medical professionals gathered at Jantar Mantar at 2 pm
Today, July 20, a protest by medicos is taking centre stage in Delhi as doctors from various states and associations unite.
Organised by the All India Pre and Para Clinical Medicos Association (AIPCMA) and the Federation of Resident Doctors Association (FORDA), the protest centres around the urgent call for the appointment of only medical postgraduates (PGs) as teachers in medical colleges nationwide. The demonstration commenced at 10 am from the National Medical Commission (NMC) office. Subsequently, medical professionals gathered at Jantar Mantar at 2 pm, and at 5 pm, they plan to hold a "Shanti March'' from Jantar Mantar to Rajghat.
At the core of this protest lies the issue of non-medical postgraduates being appointed as faculties in paraclinical subjects. For the protesting doctors, this practice is deeply concerning as they firmly believe that medical educators must possess applied medical knowledge and a deep understanding of patient care. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the issue and to present a well-rounded perspective, EdexLive has reached out to the medical community for their insights.
“These non-medical teachers, often come with backgrounds in BSc, MSc, or PhDs but lacking medical education, they fail to effectively teach subjects like Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Biochemistry,” explains Dr Anoop Singh Gurjar, General Secretary of AIPCMA.
What lies at the core of the issue?
This issue can be traced back to an old regulation of the Medical Council of India (MCI), which allowed for the appointment of non-medical postgraduates in certain paraclinical subjects, up to a maximum of 30% of the total faculty strength. This exception was made due to a shortage of medical postgraduates in these areas. However, the situation has evolved over time, and now medical graduates are showing an increased interest in paraclinical subjects, rendering the need for non-medico faculties unnecessary.
“Basically medicos were not that interested in paraclinical subjects earlier which is why there was a scarcity of faculties. Hence, MCI permitted appointment of non-medicos up to 30%; but now the scenario is not the same so there is no need,” says the Chief Advisor of Resident Doctors’ Association - All India Institute of Medical Sciences (RDA AIIMS).
According to a statement released by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), recent efforts by the Central Government of India have led to hundreds of medical graduates (MBBS) qualifying for their postgraduate studies in paraclinical subjects, including Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, and Pharmacology.
Consequently, the National Medical Commission (NMC) issued an order titled TEQ in Medical Institution Regulation 2022, stating that only 15% of faculties in these departments may be non-medical postgraduates.
When the matter went to the Supreme Court
However, non-medical teachers have filed a suit in the Supreme Court challenging the NMC's decision. While the court has declined to entertain the appeal, it has requested clarifications from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and NMC during the forthcoming hearing in July. “NMC is being pressured to go back to the old regulations and we don’t want that. We firmly support the decision to reduce the percentage of non-medicos in medical colleges, and in fact, we advocate for it to be brought down to zero," states Dr Gurjar.
Upon reaching out to students who have experienced non-medico faculty members, key points came up, shedding light on the deficiencies of these teachers in terms of patient care, rational therapeutics and effective classroom teaching.
One student, who underwent MD training at AIIMS Delhi, shared her perspective, noting that the lack of medical background of these instructors led to a loss of interest among students, leading them to resort to online studies instead. This, in turn, resulted in the failure of classroom learning altogether.
"Whenever students asked them questions related to diagnosis or patient care, the non-medico faculty members seemed ill-prepared, offering vague answers," the student said and requested for anonymity. Considering that PhD programmes are topic-specific and not subject-specific, the question of how these instructors could successfully teach medical subjects arose.
Similarly, another medico from AIIMS Delhi, on the condition of anonymity, expressed, "We require a medical point of view in our education, not a research perspective, which non-medicos can't provide." The criticism towards non-medico faculty members was consistent among most medicos, with each echoing the same sentiment. The decline in the quality of medical education in such cases was particularly emphasised.
"They are research students; they can and should focus on scientific research, as that is their forte and where they are required. However, having non-medicos teaching medical students would undoubtedly lead to a decline in the quality of medical education," said Dr Gurjar.
On the other hand, amidst the debate, we came across a tweet by Shashank Mishra in response to FORDA's solidarity tweet. The tweet reads:
“4 yrs UG 3Yrs in MSc and then 5 Yrs in Phd then 3 Yrs as Demonstrator/Lecturer then eligible for AP. Dear sir it also takes a lot for MSc students to just to stand in a race.They also have dreams/aspirations but if due to some reason if they dont get MBBS don't show inefficiency.” (sic)
Regardless of the differing perspectives, the protest continues today in Delhi, with a remarkable display of unity from the entire medical community.
Notably, the IMA sent a letter to the Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, yesterday, while various other associations such as the Federation of All India Medical Association (FAIMA), RDA AIIMS, and others have shown solidarity with the protest.