FMGs reach Supreme Court demanding inclusion in healthcare workforce, Notice issued to Centre
New Delhi: The Apex Court issued notice to the Central Government in a plea made by Foreign Medical Graduates seeking directions to include them in the workforce of COVID warriors to boost up the ailing healthcare system of the country.
The Supreme Court division bench comprising of Justice Nageswara Rao and Justice Aniruddha Bose was listening to the petition filed by 3 associations of Foreign Medical Graduates and served notice returnable in two weeks to the Central Government in this matter yesterday.
It has been, however, made clear by the Apex Court that the court is not in favour of granting exemption to the FMGE candidates from clearing their screening test, the FMGE exam in India.
Medical Dialogues had earlier reported that the medical graduates, who have pursued their medical education from outside of India, had approached the Apex Court under the banner of The Association of MD Physicians, All India Foreign Medical Graduates and Russian Medical Graduates Associations.
In the petition, the doctors who graduated from outside of India, sought a one-time exemption for their members and for all other such doctors eligible to take the foreign medical graduate exam in order to augment the health infrastructure of the country. They had further submitted before the Apex Court that their medical degrees obtained from abroad are equivalent to MBBS in India.
The Foreign Medical Graduates are those doctors who have pursued their medical education from abroad. Although their medical degree is equivalent to the MBBS degree in India, they only become eligible to practice in this country after clearing the Foreign Medical Graduate Examination (FMGE).
As per the latest media report by Bar and Bench, apart from the prayer for one-time exemption to clear the FMGE exam, the petitioners through advocate Astha Sharma prayed that the qualifying criteria of FMGs who had taken the FMGE December 2020 be reduced and brought at par with that of graduates who took the NEET Postgraduate examination of 2020.
"If the relief of lowering the qualifying criteria for the December 2020 FMGE examination be brought down from 150 out of 300 marks (50%), to 110 out of 300 marks (roughly 36.66%), 9280 (Nine Thousand Two Hundred Eighty) FMG doctors would be added to the healthcare services of the nation," the petition said.
The petitioners had further pointed out that even a 10 percent approximate reduction for qualifying the screening test in December would result in over 6,836 FMGs, who had scored over 120 marks out of 300 marks, being added to the healthcare workforce, adds the daily.
India Legal Live adds that the petition by the foreign medical graduates raised several questions including-
(i) Whether Regulation 11 of the Screening Test Regulation, 2002 is arbitrary and discriminatory?
(ii) Whether the above-mentioned Regulation makes discrimination between foreign medical graduates against Indian medical graduates and puts the former to a disadvantageous position?
(iii) Whether considering the current scenario of the pandemic, the said regulation should be set aside to include 15,000to 20,000 doctors in the COVID workforce in India?
(iv) If the Regulation cannot be set-aside, is it possible to give the foreign medical graduates an onetime exemption?
Live Law adds that on Tuesday, Senior counsel Kapil Sibal appeared for the petitioners and submitted before the Court the 4 categories of foreign medical graduates:
(i) The first category is of doctors who have cleared the screening test, completed their internship, and still they are not getting their registration.
(ii) The second category consists of students who have cleared the exam but have not been able to complete their internship.
(iii) In the third category, there are doctors who got 110 marks instead of 150 which is the minimum. In this respect, the advocate Sibal prayed for the consideration of the Government to reduce the marks like that of NEET.
(iv) Those doctors who haven't appeared for the exams and haven't cleared the same, falls in the fourth category. It was submitted before the Court that these doctors are willing to extend their help in this crisis of pandemic.
However, giving an indication that the court is not willing to give exemption to the foreign medical graduates from clearing the screening test, the Apex Court stated,
"We're not inclined to exempt from screening, we don't know which country you've studied to and what is education you have. That's why screening test it there."
"We are not very sure if we can grant you any relief for those who didn't clear the exams. Let us issue notice, let the other side come we'll see" the Bench further added.
When advocate Sibal pointed out that another exam is going to be held on June 17th, and prayed the Court to hear the petition before that, the Supreme Court mentioned,
"If exam is being conducted all of you should take the exam, we can't grant exemption."
"We're not saying that. Your lordships can hold the relief accordingly, issue notice I'll make my submissions at that time." Sibal was quoted saying by Live Law.
While the Supreme Court is yet to make a decision in this regard, speaking to Medical Dialogues regarding the issue, the National Convenor for the Indian Medical Association Medical Students Network, Dr. Prasanth S said, "It might not be possible to allow them in a purely academic basis, but if the workforce needs to be increased, this is indeed another option."