Health before marks: JJ Hospital students stay away from TB ward

MBBS students from JJ Hospital refuse to serve compulsory clinical posting in the TB department due to fear of contracting tuberculosis, even if it means they will lose a full 50 marks

MBBS students from JJ Hospital are avoiding a compulsory posting at the tuberculosis department like the plague. A whopping 80 per cent of the under graduate medical students ignore their clinical posting at the TB department of JJ and GT hospitals due to fear of contracting infection, as per the data procured from an RTI application filed by a former student of Grant Medical College.

The tuberculosis ward at Grant Medical College
The tuberculosis ward at Grant Medical College

During the second year of the MBBS course, students from the state-run government college get a clinical posting under their pulmonary medicine course in the TB department, for their third semester for 50 marks. But due to the fear of infection, more than 80 per cent of them avoid going to the hospitals and don’t appear for the examination.

The scene outside the tuberculosis ward at the government-run JJ Hospital
The scene outside the tuberculosis ward at the government-run JJ Hospital

In their latest posting in 2015, of the 177 second year MBBS students who were given the posting at the two TB wards in eight batches, only 34 attended it and gave the exam in their third semester. Though it is a compulsory posting with 50 marks, students avoid it and try obtaining higher marks in other subjects to pass.

Proper protective gear is also hard to come by at government hospitals, says the RTI applicant. File pic for representation
Proper protective gear is also hard to come by at government hospitals, says the RTI applicant. File pic for representation

No proper protection
The RTI applicant also said that the TB wards in government-run hospitals are highly infectious as no proper protective gears are provided to students. “Being a former student of JJ Hospital, I know how disgusting and highly infectious the wards are. Resident doctors themselves don’t have good quality masks for protection, what about MBBS students?” he alleged.

Shockingly during last year’s posting, only 3 resident doctors recorded an 85% attendance at JJ hospital’s TB department, while only one registered 85% attendance at GT Hospital. The 15-day posting of the under graduate students starts from August of each year and continues in eight batches till December. Four batches are posted at JJ hospital and the remaining four to GT hospital.

Dr Nagsen Ramraje, head of the pulmonary medicine department at JJ hospital attributed the low attendance of students to vacations. He said, “The fluctuations in the attendance could be because of the holidays during their posting period. These posting are for 15 days and some students might have gone on a vacation, so they couldn’t attend the posting efficiently.”

Doctor speak

Dr Sagar Mundada, the psychiatry department of JJ Hospital
MBBS students do not have pulmonary medicine as a separate, compulsory subject in their course; it is a part of medicine and therefore, students sometimes take it a little lightly. Also, some fear they may contact drug-resistant TB, so they try to avoid the posting out of this fear.

Students say

Second-year MBBS student, JJ hospital
So many people working in the ward contract TB, then why should we risk it if we have the option to ignore it? Those who want to take Pulmonary Medicine for post graduation take it seriously, while others ignore it

Third-year MBBS student, JJ Hospital
In MBBS, we have the option of getting certain aggregate marks from other subjects to pass the academic year. If we ignore the 50 marks of this posting, we can substitute it by obtaining higher marks in other subjects. Students avoid the posting since it is risky. If we contract TB for these 50 marks, our whole year will be jeopardised

34
Number of students who attended the posting at the TB departments of JJ and GT hospitals in 2015, out of 177 second year MBBS students

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