India's FMGE candidates not happy about NMC's new rules

According to the medical body’s new rule, a medical student who has studied outside India is required to do an unpaid internship in India for at least two years to get through the Compulsory Rotating Medical Internship (CRMI) CRMI norm.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Tuesday, December 06, 2022, 11:30 AM IST
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FMGE candidates have been protesting against NMC's new guidelines for them since the past few weeks | Twitter/@Indian_doctor

Mumbai: Foreign medical graduates, also known as FMG, who have studied medicine abroad, have been protesting outside the New Delhi office of the National Medical Commission (NMC) seeking the rollback of the mandatory two-year period internship policy for them. 

According to the medical body’s new rule, a medical student who has studied outside India is required to do an unpaid internship in India for at least two years to get through the Compulsory Rotating Medical Internship (CRMI) CRMI norm.

The candidates, who appeared in exams in the foreign medical graduate exam (FMGE) in December 2021 and June 2022, are already in their first year of internship after clearing the exam but NMC’s order, which came out in July 2022 and required candidates to complete two years of internship in view of Covid-19 and online classes has left many of them feeling discriminated against.

“Online classes were going on throughout the world and we had no other choice but to continue with it. If students who studied in India are not eligible for the same, then why separate rules for us?,” questioned Sania Shaikh, who is in her ninth month of internship at a medical college in Delhi.

“The rules have been applied arbitrarily and if we knew we had to complete two years of internship, we wouldn’t have come back,” added Haneef.

Twitter/@dentodontics

Individuals who returned from Ukraine, China, Philippines worst affected

Countries like the Philippines, Ukraine, and China have become popular study destinations for Indian medical students, who have not been able to fulfil their dream of pursuing medicine back in India. Candidates who study in these countries also had to return to India, with Covid being the driving factor for candidates in the Philippines and China and war with Russia, being the reason for Ukraine-returned students. Many of these candidates continued with online classes back in India.

Though the new rules are in effect since July 2022, many candidates are still awaiting further clarification on the same.

“The students who have returned to India will be following the new rules but there’s no clarification from NMC on which countries or enrollment year is being considered for the same to be enforced,” said Shubham Gupta, an intern at Safdarjung hospital.

Candidates juggle between NMC and state medical councils

Earlier, state medical councils such as Punjab, Haryana, and Maharashtra used to list out the hospitals and medical colleges under which candidates can complete their internship but now NMC has taken it upon itself to fulfil this duty. In September 2022, NMC had also warned FMGs against enrolling for CRMI in standalone PG institutes and civil hospitals, which have no teaching facilities. The repercussions of the same have left the future of some candidates in limbo.

“Though NMC released the list of medical colleges which are eligible in June 2022, state medical councils gave us a NOC on completing internships in civil hospitals which don’t necessarily have a medical college under them. Many like me are now completing their internships in civil hospitals, which are now considered invalid by NMC,” said Aditya Rana, whose internship is underway at a Haryana hospital.

Back in March 2022, NMC had clarified that FMGs who want to enrol for MBBS internship in India will not be charged any fees for the same, while also being eligible for equal stipend. Though the announcement came as a relief many candidates have approached the Health Ministry for its implementation across the board. 

Experts raise alarm on mental health of FMGs

The current situation has not only had an impact on the careers of India’s FMG community but is also having a severe effect on their mental well-being, according to experts.

“The major problem is that many of the students are now expressing suicidal thoughts. They have no idea which direction their career is going to take. Many students have already messaged me regarding the same,” said Dr. Praveen Tripathi, a Psychiatrist, and a faculty of Psychiatry based in Delhi-NCR, with a popular YouTube channel catering to the medical community.

“More importantly, in an internship, most candidates are collecting blood samples and other reports. You don’t need two years of internship to perfect that kind of work, so the new rules don't serve any purpose except for affecting the mental health of the candidates,” added Dr. Praveen.

NMC rules for FMGs exclusionary according to some

Seasoned individuals in the field also believe there’s a certain bias against FMGs that needs to be addressed by the medical fraternity.

“The fourth and fifth-year students have already spent so much time figuring out a solution to their situation, especially considering the fact that they have had issues with visas in the case of China. The decision of NMC reeks of bias to me,” Dr. Ashish Mahendra, who serves as a member of the Dental Council of India and also works in counselling medical students across the country.

“Medical graduates in India usually get paid during their internship but FMGs have to pay in order to take the exams. They are unpaid throughout the duration,” added Dr. Mahendra, who further said that with 14-15,000 candidates having to study medicine abroad each year, a provision to protect them in their home country is the need of the hour.

FMGE 2023 to be held soon 

In light of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi elections, FMGE for the year 2023 has been postponed to January 20, 2023, instead of December 4, 2022, by the National Board of Examination in Medical Sciences.

The National Board of Examination in Medical Sciences (NBE) postponed the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE) December exam. The FMGE exam 2022 will now be held on January 20, 2023, instead of December 4, 2022. The decision to postpone the FMGE exam 2022 was taken in the wake of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) elections which are scheduled to be held on December 4, 2022.

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