NMC says NO to Indian Embassy in Philippines seeking relief for medical students
New Delhi: Around 10,000 Indian medical students who are pursuing BS course in Philippines are in trouble as the National Medical Commission has turned down the request of Indian Embassy in Milan in Philippines for accepting the course as a part of their undergraduate medical education curriculum.
The embassy wrote to NMC seeking relief for these students who enrolled in this course in 2018/2019 and faced uncertainty regarding their future after the FMGL Regulations 2022 came into force, adds Outlook India.
Earlier, issuing a public notice in this regard, NMC had mentioned, "Bridging BS Course is a course of Bachelor of Science for candidates seeking to join courses in the field of Science & Research in Philippines. The said course comprises of subjects of Biology similar to Class 11th & 12th in India."
"The BS course cannot be equated/included with the MBBS course. Therefore, after the publication of gazette notification dated 18.11.2021 i.e. NMC's FMGL Regulations 2021, the students who have already taken admission for any foreign medical qualification/course which is not equivalent to the MBBS course in India, cannot be treated as eligible qualification for registration to practise medicine in India," the commission said in the notice dated March 25.
Last year, putting an end to all the speculations surrounding foreign medical education as well as sealing the fate of its course, the National Medical Commission had notified the National Medical Commission (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate) Regulations, 2021.
The regulations that came into effect from 18th of November 2021, has been made be applicable to all admissions after the said date. On the issue of Grant of permanent registration to Foreign Medical Graduate, the regulations state that No foreign medical graduate shall be granted permanent registration, unless he has–
(a) (i) undergone a course leading to foreign medical degree with minimum duration of fifty-four months;
The regulations would not be applicable to foreign medical graduates who have acquired a foreign medical degree or primary qualification prior to the coming into force of these regulations or to those candidates who are pursuing their education in foreign institutions prior to the coming into force of these regulations or to those who are specifically exempted by the Commission or the Central Government. For those who are currently pursuing their foregin medical education would be governed by ertwhile regulations, the NMC had clearly stated.
In the case of UG medical education in Philippines, the majority of medical colleges offer a composite program with first a two-year BS course and thereafter a 4 year MD course (Graduate /Primary Medical Course being equivalent to MBBS).
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that with its official gazette notification that is 18th November 2021 on the issue of (Foreign Medical Graduate Licentiate) Regulations, the NMC had specified that henceforth the minimum duration of the MBBS curriculum outside the country has to be 54 months (4.5 years).
Challenging the new regulations a PIL was filed before the Rajasthan High Court, by an MBBS student who was pursuing her medical education abroad. After taking note of the submissions, the Rajasthan High Court bench comprising of Chief Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice Sameer Jain has issued notice in the matter.
Besides this National Medical Commission also received and considered the representations received from medical students who are pursuing BS Courses in Philippines, prior to publication of Gazette of India i.e. FMGL Regulations 2021, seeking exemption/ special dispensation.
The bone of contention was that while the actual MD course ( Graduate /Primary Medical Course being equivalent to MBBS) was of 4 years that is lesser than the required duration but the students in Phillipines were also asked to go through the BS degree, a 2 year program, which when accounted would mean a total duration fo 6 years which would be above the required norm of 54 months and hence recognizable
Analyzing the course structure in detail, NMC gave its decision on the matter, ceiling the fate of medical education in the Philippines. The regulator however noted that this would be valid on only on those who were doing their courses after FMGL Regulations 2021 in the publication of Gazette of India
Observing that BS and MD course are two separate degrees in Philippines, NMC had noted in its public notice dated March 25, "Bridging BS Course is a course for Bachelor of Science for candidates seeking to join courses in field of Science & Research in Philippines. The said course comprises of subjects of Biology similar to Class 11th & 12th in India. BS Course is the pre-medical course in Philippines, after the completion of which the candidates have to appear in the NMAT examination to seek admission in MD Course (Graduate /Primary Medical Course being equivalent to MBBS) which is of 4-year duration. The pattern is BS Course followed by MD Course, however, in the said BS Course, the candidates are not being taught pre-clinical subjects like Anatomy, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Microbiology etc., rather they are being taught subjects like Biology, Psychology etc. which is equivalent to Class 12th in India. Hence, BS Course is a basic degree course prior to the starting of Graduate/Primary Medical Course in reference to Indian Education. The same does not even qualify a candidate to be eligible for admission in the MBBS course in India."
However, NMC had clarified, "Whereas, the students who have taken admission in MD course in Philippines prior to FMGL Regulations 2021 can be considered subject to fulfilling other prevailing eligibility criteria for registration."
The Graduate Medical Education Regulations, 1997 prescribes that candidates mandatorily must qualify the NEET-UG Examination for becoming eligible for counseling to be considered for admission in MBBS course and that to appear in NEET-UG, it is a pre-condition that the candidates must have studied in the last 2 years of his / her school education (Class 11th and 12th) regular, simultaneous, co-terminus the subjects of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. Thus, a candidate who has already undergone the requisite studies in Class 11th and 12th in India and thereafter qualified the NEET-UG, being the pre-requisite for proceeding to a Foreign Medical Institute, shall not gain any further knowledge by undergoing the BS Course, which seems to be a mandatory course for obtaining admission to the Graduate/Primary Medical Course in the Philippines. The BS Course in the Philippines is a pre-requisite to appear in NMAT for admission in MD Course (Graduate/Primary Medical Course being equivalent to MBBS).
"Hence, the duration of the BS Course cannot be counted in the duration of the Graduate/Primary Medical Course in Philippines. Further, the regulations were not made/directed to any particular country but to be universally applicable for all FMGs, with the sole objective of maintaining a standard of education and quality of doctors in India," the top medical body had noted.
As per the latest media report by Outlook India, even though NMC has time and again clarified that the BS course cannot be counted as a pat of UG medical course, it continued receiving the pleas from students seeking an exemption. In fact, the Indian Embassy in Manila in Philippines also wrote to the apex medical body regarding the issue.
Last year after the FMGL regulations 2021 came into effect, the students had approached the top medical body seeking to know if BS course and MD together would be considered as one course.
However, NMC in its letter dated December 7, 2021 had clarified, "...the bridging BS course of 1.5 -2 years before MD course will not be included in the calculation of the duration of the course."
On December 10, 2021, the Indian Embassy raised the issue once more and Vishwanjali Gaikwad, Second Secretary (PIC), Embassy of India in Manila had pointed out, "The Embassy is of the view that a special dispensation may be considered to students currently pursuing BS course in the Philippines to avoid academic and financial loss to them...Several such students, who availed of admission in 2018/2019 or later are and affected by new guidelines have written to the Embassy seeking clarification on this aspect."
However, responding to the same, Dr Aruna V Vanikar, President of the Under Graduate Medical Education Board (UGMEB) of the NMC clarified, "After the publication of the Gazette Notification dated, 18.11.2021, ie, NMC's FMGL Regulation's 2021, the students who have already admitted in any medical qualification/course which is not equivalent to the MBBS course in India, cannot be treated as eligible qualification for registration to practice medicine in India."
Although the apex medical regulator has denied giving any relief in this regard, the matter has already reached the Delhi High Court and is now being considered by the same.
While commenting on the issue, a student pursuing the BS Biology courses in Philippines told Outlook India, "I fail to understand the NMC's logic. It says that those who have been admitted to MD programmes before the enactment of the regulations, ie November 18, 2021, will get protection and their studies are recognised. But those who have been admitted to the BS Biology course before November 18, they will not get any protection."
Barsha completed her MA from the University of Burdwan, West Bengal in 2018. Having a knack for Journalism she joined Medical Dialogues back in 2020. She mainly covers news about medico legal cases, NMC/DCI updates, medical education issues including the latest updates about medical and dental colleges in India. She can be contacted at email@example.com.