The Union Health Ministry’s recent plan to introduce NEXT, which is an exit examination for all medical and dental students has been met with a lot of opposition. The students and doctors of the state of Kerala have voiced their opposition to the quality check proposal of the government in the form of National Exit Exam (NEXT) and is being seen as more as an attempt to impose three year’s of compulsory rural service (CRS) on those students who pass the MBBS course.
According to Dr. P Jathin, President of Kerala, Medical Post Graduates Association, currently there are strong objections against the amendments being made in the MCI Act for this purpose. Undergoing one more test to practice after successfully completing the MBBS course is not being seen as justified by the association. Dr Jathin also claimed that if the center was so concerned about the quality of medical education, then the proposed short term courses like Bachelor of Rural Health (BRHS) Service should not be introduced as it will result in half qualified doctors. Similarly, the proposal to allow AYUSH doctors to prescribe drugs used in modern medicine has not been seen as fit by the Kerala Association.
Responding to the opposition of the association, the MCI state representative, Dr K Mohanan said “At the last council meeting, there was stiff opposition to the proposal. It is an absurd decision since this was proposed at a time when the eligibility test for those who are completing MBBS outside the country was scrapped. Having a compulsory rural service and NEXT – if it is considered as the entrance for the postgraduate courses is welcome. But, a quality check on those who pass different layers of exam is not justified.”
State Secretary elect, IMA, Dr N Sulphi determined the exit exam as a stupid move on the part of the government. Stating that the students are already screened enough at various levels during their undergraduate programme, then why are doubts being raised upon the standards of these exams. Dr Sulphi said “If at all the standards have fallen, the government and MCI are responsible as they allowed the mushrooming of medical colleges without minimum standards”. According to Dr Sulphi, a common examination for government and private medical colleges would be better to maintain the standard of education.
The amendment that allows 50% quota for doctors working in the health service for postgraduate courses has also met with opposition from the medicos. The public service exams conducted for the posts in Directorate of Health Service and Directorate of Medical Education happens once in a while in Kerala. Due to the inefficient PSC recruitment system, thousands of MBBS doctors who are willing to join the government sector are unable to join.
According to Dr Jinesh, a health activist, there are 2850 students in Kerala who complete their MBBS course every year and there are 87 primary health centres identified in rural areas. Deputing these doctors for compulsory rural service will be a difficult task to be done.
NEXT has been recently been introduced by the Union Heath Ministry as the exit examination that all medical students will have to qualify after completing their undergraduate course to use the “Doctor” title. NEXT will be an outcome based test, according to the officials and will be the replacement to three tests – NEET PG, Recruitment of Central Health Services and the Foreign Graduate Medical Examination.