Provide NEET PG aspirants, Nursing Students Incentives in Form of Grace Marks: Supreme Court
New Delhi: Taking note of the fatigue that is setting in among the existing doctors and healthcare staff who have been dealing with the pandemic since March, last year, the Supreme Court has recommended Centre to make Covid service attractive to almost 1.5 lakh NEET PG aspirants and 2.5 lakh trained nurses by way of grace marks as an incentive.
According to a recent report by Livelaw, the Supreme Court bench comprising of Justices Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah opined that incentive in the form of money would not help and suggested providing the NEET PG aspirants and nursing students with an incentive in the form of grace marks.
Justice Chandrachud pointed out "The most important thing is missing here...incentive in the form of grace marks in the NEET PG course. Money won't help. People won't stir out in these COVID times otherwise".
The observation came while the Apex Court bench was listening to the Centre's petition against the Delhi High Court's contempt notice to its officials for failing to secure a supply of 700 MT of oxygen to Delhi as directed by the SC on April 30. The SC bench stayed the contempt proceedings on Wednesday and asked the Centre to explain the plan to address the necessary supply.
As per the Live Law, addressing the growing need for doctors and healthcare workers in India, Justice D.Y Chandrachud mentioned on Thursday, "There is no way today that we have the number of health professionals in our medical infrastructure to be able to meet the ongoing second surge and a potential third wave. No country in the world can meet such a demand. And India does not have such a quantum of human resources."
The Apex Court judge further pointed it out before the Solicitor General of India that the existing doctors and healthcare workers must be exhausted after fighting the war against the pandemic for more than a year.
"A fatigue is setting in the existing professionals. They have been at it since March 2020! They are at the end of their tether...We are seeing a surge right now. There is also an anticipation by official scientists of a potential third wave," the Court observed.
Addressing the workforce of lakhs of NEET PG aspirants and trained nurses, the SC judge further suggested,
"There are 1.5 lakh doctors waiting to appear in the NEET who have completed the medical course and their internship. There are some 2.5 lakh nurses who are now fully trained. They can be involved in the COVID workforce. But if you give them 15-25,000 rupees, nobody would come. How can you make Covid service attractive to them? This can bolster your infrastructure for the third surge."
As a response, the Solicitor General added that incentive in the form of grace marks in the PG exam could also be considered, reports LiveLaw.
Adding that an effort on the part of the Central government to tap available human resources of to-be doctors and to-be nurses is already underway, the Solicitor General further added, "Something is happening in this direction. I have spoken to a high-placed officer in this regard. I will check with the Health Ministry and respond back to the Court."
The counsel for the centre, in response, further submitted a note on the behalf of the Government of India which mentioned several decisions taken a few days ago to ensure adequate doctors and healthcare staff in the country.
Medical Dialogues had recently reported that reviewing the growing need for adequate human resources for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in the country the Prime Minister's office took several important decisions to significantly boost the availability of medical personnel in Covid duty.
A decision was taken to postpone NEET-PG for at least 4 months & the exam will not be held before 31st August 2021. "Students will also be given at least one month of time after the announcement of the exam before it is conducted. This will make a large number of qualified doctors available for Covid duties," said a release by PMO.
"The State/UT Governments are to make all efforts to reach out to each such prospective NEET candidate and request them to join the Covid – 19 workforce in this hour of need. The services of these MBBS doctors can be utilized in the management of COVID – 19," the release added.
It was also decided to deploy Medical Interns in Covid Management duties under the supervision of their faculty, utilize the services of the Final year MBBS students for teleconsultation and monitoring mild Covid cases, and continue utilizing the services of Final Year PG students as residents until fresh batches of PG students have joined.
Apart from these, the release also mentioned giving full-time Covid nursing duties to B.Sc./GNM Qualified Nurses, and final year GNM or B.Sc. (Nursing) students awaiting Final Exam under the supervision of Senior Doctors and Nurses. Announcements were made to give priority to the individuals providing Covid duties in forthcoming regular Government recruitments after they complete a minimum of 100 days of Covid duty.
The National Health Mission (NHM) norm for contractual human resource engagement by States/UTs may be considered for implementation of the above proposed initiative for engaging the additional manpower. Flexibility will be available with States to decide on remuneration as in NHM norms, submitted the counsel for the Centre.
Apart from these, it has been also submitted on the behalf of the Centre that the states and UTs have been given liberty to decide on a suitable honorarium for distinguished service. The Government also decided to cover all healthcare professionals engaged under the insurance scheme of the government, providing National Covid Samman to professionals who would sign up for a minimum of hundred days of Covid duty. The Centre also asked the States to ensure that the medical professionals were fully vaccinated.
Besides, the counsel for the Centre also submitted that the Centre asserted that these incentive plans would be fully availed by all institutions- central, state and private. The centre also recommended that the States and UTs should consider giving preference in regular government appointments of health professionals to these persons who complete a minimum of hundred days of Covid related duty.
Apart from these, the State/UT Governments have been also urged to expeditiously fill vacant posts of doctors, nurses, other related healthcare staff, at most within 45 days through contractual appointments, adds Live Law.
After perusing the note, Justice Chandrachud pointed out
"The most important thing is missing here...incentive in the form of grace marks in the NEET PG course. Money won't help. People won't stir out in these COVID times otherwise".
"This Suggestion will be conveyed with utmost sincerity and I am sure the government would not object", assured the SG.
Pointing out that there must be follow-up steps taken by the State governments and that the States must report back to the center, Justice Shah mentioned that the above-mentioned policy must not only remain on paper.
Apart from this, Justice Shah also addressed the MBBS degree holders who are engaged in non-medical and administrative duties as associate professors etc. Mentioning that this workforce should also be utilized, Justice Shah added,
"Let them also be deputed. If students can be deputed in hospitals, they must also be. Right now they are not doing anything and they are sitting at home. All of them are your employees!"
The counsel for the centre also suggested that even the private doctors may also be asked to provide their service. "As of now, there is 1 doctor for 100-150 patients in hospitals. If even 20% (of private doctors) come, that would be enough," he added.