Practicing medicine in India with a foreign degree
M3 India Newsdesk Apr 07, 2019
In the Sunday Seires today we bring to you a popular article from our archives which highlights alien treatment meted to foreign-educated doctors.
When accused of medical negligence, foreign-educated doctors in India are up against not only the complainant but, apparently, also against the bias of medical governing bodies.
Last August, Uttarakhand Medical Council (UKMC) barred Dr SB Rajesh (name changed), a senior orthopaedic surgeon based in the state's capital Dehradun, from practicing for six months after a deceased patient's family filed a complaint against him. Dr Rajesh has multiple medical degrees from foreign countries, including one from China.
Five months later, the Medical Council of India (MCI) overturned his suspension, noting that the UKMC's order "nowhere discussed documentary evidence. Therefore, it is difficult to understand the basis of the decision." Dr Rajesh told this correspondent that the UKMC did not have any proof against him. He said the patient's family themselves had admitted that he was a drug addict and had even refused a post-mortem, yet he was deemed negligent and banned.
Dr. Rajesh said that while the MCI has undone the injustice meted out to him by the UKMC and now he is free to practice, the damage is done. He elaborated that all the negative publicity he got after he was banned has affected his reputation, which reflects in reduced patient inflow and, consequently, reduced income. "This has hurt me and my profession," he emphasized, making no attempt to hide his despondency.
His is a far from the only case where a medical body's decision to ban a foreign-educated doctor for alleged negligence has raised eyebrows. In Uttar Pradesh, Dr. Aman Gera (name changed) of Agra was held guilty of medical negligence and barred for six months last December. He has an MD degree from Ukraine.
According to Dr Gera the case regarding which he has been barred had occurred about three years ago. He said the patient whose death triggered the case was more than 80 years old. He said he suspected a heart-related issue, so he asked his cardiology specialist to attend to the patient. He said the patient's son refused basic medical tests and other recommendations, so he referred the patient to another hospital.
However, the old man died a few hours after he was referred, and his family filed a case against Dr Gera. Last December, he received a notice from the MCI and Uttar Pradesh Medical Council (UPMC), informing him he was barred from practicing for six months and stating the reason as: "Not proficient in the subject." Also, the deceased's family has filed a case against Dr Gera in Agra consumer forum, seeking a compensation of Rs 20 lakhs.
Medical body's hearings
The registrar of UPMC defended the decision of barring Dr. Gera.
"Ukraine se aap MD karke aaye ho toh hamein kya pata! Yahaan toh patient ki jaan chali gayi. Jab jis cheeez ki knowledge nahi hai toh us cheez mein kyun haath daala aapne," he asked.
(Translation- You've done your MD from Ukraine, so what do we know! Here, the patient lost his life. Why did you dabble in something when you don't have the knowledge about it!)
The authorities said Dr. Gera's MD degree from Ukraine is equivalent to India's MBBS degree. He contended that the latter does not have the requisite training and expertise to treat the case like that of the patient who allegedly died on his watch. He said he was with the UPMC's ethics committee and other members when the council summoned Dr. Gera to look into the complaint against him.
He added that this was not the first time they have passed such an order, having barred about a dozen doctors in the past couple of years. He asserted that the UPMC bars a registered medical practitioner only after their investigation--which takes a minimum of six months to complete--finds him/her guilty.
Even as the UPMC registrar asserted that Dr. Gera was adjudged not proficient only after a fair inquiry, the doctor claimed his face-off with the council was unprofessional and humiliating. He alleged that he was barred from practice only because his medical degree is from a foreign country. Now, he is looking for a good legal adviser to challenge the medical bodies' decision to ban him.
Section 13(4A) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 & Clause 3 of the Screening Test Regulations, 2002 states,
An Indian possessing a primary medical qualification awarded by any medical institution outside India can be registered after he/she qualifies a Screening Test conducted by the National Board of Examinations.
The requirement of screening test has been dispensed with in the case of five English speaking countries (US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) provided the students hold both UG & PG degrees from these countries.
Once qualified, he/she is treated as any doctors having Indian degree. There are more than 26,000 medical practitioners in India with a degree from foreign countries. Twice a year, the MCI conducts a screening test for aspiring doctors who have got foreign degrees.
Only 19 percent are able to pass the screening test
Allegation of discrimination
As per Medical Council of India (MCI) from 2007 till mid-2014, a total of 12,858 permanent registrations were granted by MCI in respect of Indian nationals who possess primary medical qualification from various universities outside the country.
Regardless of doctor’s degree MCI the medical governing body only looks at the allegations of medical negligence independently and take decisions only based on the evidence. And while a state council’s decision can be challenged in MCI, the MCI can also overturn the state council’s decision based on documentary evidence.
"The MCI should review its decision as Dr. Gera has been practicing for more than 10 years and had got registered with the MCI only after passing the screening test," said Dr. JN Tandon of Agra Doctor's Medical Association. He said the doctors' association is with Dr. Gera.
An executive of the All India Foreign Medical Graduate Association said the phenomenon of governing bodies meting out alien treatment to foreign-educated doctors has become common. He contended that the MCI does not treat foreign graduates like it treats Indian graduate.
Saurabh Sharma is a freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters, a network of grassroots reporters.
This article was originally published on 06.04.18
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