Delhi govt’s decision to engage final year students on COVID duties draws flak

With healthcare workers scarce, directors of COVID hospitals were asked to engage the services of fourth and fifth year medical students.

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An association of resident doctors in Delhi has expressed discontent with the Delhi government’s latest order to deploy undergraduate MBBS (medicine) and BDS (dentistry) students on Covid duties in order to manage the scarcity of healthcare workers.

As per the Federation of Residents Doctors Association (FORDA), undergraduate students do not have the necessary skills to clinically manage the medical care of the Covid patients and are also at risk of contracting the infection.

“UG students are not skilled enough. They are yet to undergo the basic training and internship. Engaging such students is like deploying an army without weapons. How would they fight or even manage the lethal pandemic?” said Shivaji Dev Barman, president of FORDA.

The order, which came last week, asked medical directors of Covid hospitals to engage fourth and fifth year students of medicine, interns and undergraduate dentists to assist the doctors on Covid duty. The students would be paid a shift-wise honorarium (compensation), the order stated.

READ MORE: Indian medics condemn move allowing Ayurveda docs to perform surgery

covid doctor
Source: Alberto Giuliani/ Wikicommons

“In view of Covid-19 pandemic and increased demand of ICU beds and medical HR in the hospitals of GNCTD Delhi for management of Covid-19, all MDs/Directors of Covid Hospitals of GNCTD are permitted to engage 4th and 5th year MBBS students, interns and BDS pass doctors to assist the duty doctors at the honorarium of Rs 1,000 (eight hours shift) and Rs 2,000 (12 hours shift) per day by exercising powers delegated to them u/s 50 of the Disaster Management Act. In case of interns, the honorarium would be over and above their stipend,” the order read.

The FORDA suggested that the government should rope junior and senior resident doctors, who have the clinical experience and skills to manage the patients.

“There is no dearth of senior or junior residents in the city. A vacancy attracts thousands of applications. The government should consider the trained staff,” said Sunil Arora, general secretary, FORDA.

Apart from repealing the order, the association demanded representation of resident doctors in the state Covid task force and committee.

“It will help the government in formulating policies related to doctors better,” Barman reasoned.


READ MORE: India is key for global access to a COVID-19 vaccine – here’s why

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