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Maharashtra: ‘Decision could raise concerns on quality of medical education’

Updated on: 23 September,2023 07:29 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Vinod Kumar Menon |

Doctors divided over zero-percentile cut-off; some welcome it, others slam it

Maharashtra: ‘Decision could raise concerns on quality of medical education’

A doctor said decision could promote corruption and stimulate an increase in fees in private medical colleges. Representation pic

Even as health academicians in the city are puzzled with the timing of the World Federation of Medical Education (WFME) recognition that 706 medical schools in the country got last week and the recent “Zero cut off’ notification passed by the apex medical regulatory body; whether it will have any impact on the standardization of postgraduate medical education in India and its effect, if at all on the overall health care system, is to be seen.

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, professor of Medicine, Grant Medical College and Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals, said he was absolutely shocked to know about the notification from the Director General of Health Services (DGHS), that the qualifying percentile for NEET-PG 2023, for admission to postgraduate medical and dental courses in the country has been reduced to “Zero”. The notification was released on September 20. The reduction in the qualifying percentile has been made applicable to all categories of candidates.

‘A bizarre decision’

Dr Shaikh said that the decision is bizarre. “It will raise concerns regarding the quality of medical education in the country. It could promote corruption and possibly stimulate an increase in fees in private medical colleges,” he said.

Dr Ketan Vagholkar, DY Patil Medical College and Dr Subhash Hira, University of Washington-SeattleDr Ketan Vagholkar, DY Patil Medical College and Dr Subhash Hira, University of Washington-Seattle

Dr Shaikh added that the actual percentile required for PG Medical and Dental admissions until now was 50 from the general / unreserved category, and 40 for students from reserved categories. He said that this decision on zero percentile has been implemented to fill all the PG clinical and non-clinical seats so that unlike previous years, no seats are left vacant.

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Dr Shaikh said, “The WFME’s approval has 6 medical colleges (Cooper, Nair, KEM, Sion, JJ and Somaiya hospital) from Mumbai that were recognized last week. Indian graduates can now pursue their PG education in countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The government of India has spent R 320 crore towards the processing fees to obtain this approval. The recognition is being looked forward to, as students of these medical colleges can pursue their post-graduation from any PG colleges from these countries, but will it really happen? Only time will tell.”

He said the decision to reduce the percentile to “Zero”, if and when noted by the WFME, could lead to cancellation of approvals for our medical colleges.

‘Whole purpose defeated’

Dr Ketan Vagholkar, professor of Surgery at DY Patil Medical College, said, “Bringing the qualifying mark to zero defeats the whole purpose of a PG medical entrance test. There should be no compromise in quality and standards. Just because there are no takers for the post-graduate seats, we don’t have to provide substandard care to society by permitting doctors who do not qualify with the intellectual standards required for the job.”

Dr Vagholkar added, “The primary health care centres in the country need basic medical graduates, as India still has a large rural sector. Post-graduation is specialisation in different branches of clinical sciences. The best of medical graduates are selected for post-graduation specialised medical courses. Therefore, stringent cut off in PG-NEET is absolutely essential.”

NEET-PG cut-off pros and cons

The NMC decision on zero percentile in NEET-PG was the demand for several years by IMA and other medical bodies due to discriminatory slabs of cut-offs in the past decades; namely the general category students would qualify above 50 per cent, but it was 45 for persons with disabilities and 40 for reserved category. With zero percentile cut-off i.e. those scoring up to minus (-) 40 in NEET-PG examination will qualify for admission.

“The advantages of this change as seen by many education experts are that it eliminates discriminatory cut-off slabs for general versus disabled versus reserved categories. It will ensure that qualified doctors with medical and dental degrees will be able to get admission to PG courses in India thereby reducing dependence on foreign universities. Tons of non-clinical and paramedical course seats that were going abegging will now get filled, and it will reduce the hangover of ‘seat selling’ of yesteryears! Merit admissions will be retained by applying NEET-PG scores in the system”, said Dr Subhash Hira, professor of Global Health at University of Washington-Seattle.

Welcome move

Dr Santosh Bansode, emergency medicine specialist said, “It’s a welcome move, as many seats which remain vacant each year because of no takers, can be filled. Students who qualify generally do not opt for subjects like physiology, anatomy, biochemistry so such seats remain vacant. The problem is that after doing MD in Physiology or Anatomy or Biochemistry, we can be professors, teachers and since these are non-clinical subjects, doctors who prefer clinical practice don’t opt for them.”

“Doctors who did not qualify earlier might be interested in these non-clinical seats as sometimes non-clinical MD is better than plain MBBS. I feel few doctors will want to take non-clinical subjects to do MD. So even if NEET PG cut off is made zero, still there’s a high chance that seats for anatomy, physiology and biochemistry will remain vacant, as most doctors wish to do clinical practice or something related to clinical practice, and very few doctors are interested in such purely non-clinical subjects. By making the cut off to zero, the government is doing its best. Now it is fully dependent on what students want and what they wish to do in their future,” Dr Bansode concluded.

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