Bihar: MBBS interns at Covid hospital threaten to go on strike over hike in stipend
Around 850 MBBS interns in Bihar may strike work from next week if their demands over increase in stipend, providing insurance cover and counting their period of Covid-19 duty as part of the year-long internship programme were not met.
“We will try and meet the additional chief secretary (health), Pratyaya Amrit, tomorrow (Monday). Seeing his response, we will decide the date of our strike if the government doesn’t heed our demands,” said Gautam Kumar, a 2016-batch medico at the Nalanda Medical College Hospital (NMCH).
The undergraduate students of the NMCH have blown the bugle of protest by staging a demonstration on college campus Saturday and mobilised support among batchmates of six other medical colleges to get their message across to the state government.
Ripples of protest were evident at the Sri Krishna Medical College Hospital in Muzaffarpur and the Darbhanga Medical College Hospital at Laheriasarai in Darbhanga on Saturday.
MBBS final year students of other state-run medical colleges, including the Patna Medical College Hospital, Anugrah Narayan Magadh Medical College Hospital, Gaya, Vardhaman Institute of Medical Science, Pawapuri (Nalanda) and Government Medical College, Bettiah, have also expressed solidarity with the NMCH students, leading the protest, claimed Gautam.
The NMCH has been declared a 500-bed dedicated Covid-19 hospital along with the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Science (IGIMS), an autonomous institute of the state government on the pattern of AIIMS, both in Patna.
The students are demanding parity in internship. They claim MBBS interns at the IGIMS get more monthly stipend than any of the other eight state government-run medical institutions.
“The enhancement of monthly stipend of IGIMS interns by ₹2,800 to ₹26,300 has been approved in principle. Add to it the ₹1,000 incentive per 8-hour shift for Covid-19 duty, approved on May 21. With an average of eight days of Covid-19 duty in a month, their consolidated stipend would go up to ₹34,000 (approx.), while we will get a pittance of ₹15,000 monthly, with no incentive for Covid duty,” said Gautam.
His batchmate Anuj Kumar said the government had not raised their stipend since 2017 when it was last revised from ₹12,000 to ₹15,000.
“The stipend of junior doctors, pursuing post-graduation (PG), was increased last year, but that of MBBS interns has not been increased since 2016, though the government is committed to increasing it every three years,” said Anuj.
The students are also demanding that their period of Covid duty be counted as part of the one-year MBBS internship programme so that they are eligible to appear in the national eligibility-cum-entrance test (NEET) for postgraduate courses.
“We need to complete 365 days of internship before we can appear for the NEET entrance test for the PG programme. MBBS final year medicos at Patna’s IGIMS and in other states have completed their exam and joined as interns, but we haven’t. If the government delays our exams, our internship period will be affected, which will make us ineligible to appear in the NEET entrance test next year. So, our Covid duty should be counted as an internship,” added Anuj.
The students mock at the Bihar government’s decision to stop the MBBS final year examination mid-way, after it began on April 17, in light of the spike in Covid-19 cases in the state.
“First, the state government defers our exams for the safety of students from the pandemic and a few days later it drafts us for duty in Covid-19 wards,” said Gautam.
The medicos are also demanding insurance cover for doing Covid-19 duty, given the risk involved. Bihar has already lost around 130 doctors during the pandemic.
Bihar had 44,907 active cases of coronavirus on Saturday, with 6,85,574 cumulative cases and 4,442 deaths. Patna, with 725 new cases out of the 4,375 reported in the state on Saturday, led the district tally with 1,41,380 total cases and 1,135 deaths so far