MCI’s ‘open door’ policy raises eyebrows

Foreign nationals having postgraduation can attend National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for superspecialty courses

The Medical Council of India’s decision to open the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for superspecialty courses in medicine (NEET-SS 2019) to foreign nationals has raised eyebrows amongst the medical fraternity, with many questioning the rationale behind the move.

According to the National Board of Examinations (NBE), foreign nationals with recognised postgraduate medical qualification can appear in NEET-SS 2019 without MCI registration.

The MCI, on payment of a prescribed fee, will grant temporary registration to foreign nationals for the duration of the course.

According to S 14 (1) of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, the council may grant temporary registration to foreign nationals only for the purpose of research, charity work or teaching for a limited period.

However, the application form for applying for temporary registration for foreign nationals has additionally inserted the word “training”, to facilitate the entry of foreign nationals, it is being pointed out.

“In whichever manner one interprets the IMC Act, there is no provision as of now to allow foreign nationals to undergo training or pursue a higher course like DM/MCh in the country. The provision 14 (1) in the Act is being misused to allow backdoor entry of foreign nationals into our medical education scene,” a senior doctor said.

NEET SS 2018-19 had the same provision but it had not attracted much attention at the time, he said.

This is being done surreptitiously to aid private medical institutions, many of whom had found no takers for their DM/MCh seats in previous years, he claimed.

There is only a 15% quota for NRIs and no quota for foreign students at any level of medical education in India. Indian students, many of whom cannot afford the hefty fee charged for DM/MCh courses in many institutions, will be the losers.

No takers

In 2018-19, out of over 2,000 DM/MCh seats in the country in private and government institutions, nearly 190 had no takers. Over 10,000 students had qualified in NEET SS last year. Most of the seats that were vacant were in premium courses such as cardiothoracic and vascular surgery, neuro surgery, paediatric surgery and plastic surgery.

In 2017-18, some 350-odd superspecialty seats had been vacant in the country.

These vacant seats are said to be a huge drain on the resources for government or medical managements because equipping an institution for DM/MCh courses involves significant investment in faculty, equipment, and infrastructure.

Seats could be falling vacant due to many reasons, including heavy fee, choice of institution, personal reasons or “artificial barriers” created by various institutions/State governments that might insist on a service bond, said R.V. Ashokan, president of the Indian Medical Association.

“It is a fact that the IMC Act does not offer any provision for providing medical education opportunities for foreign nationals. However, according to my information, the seats given to foreign nationals will be over and above the DM/MCh seats set aside for Indian nationals,” Dr. Ashokan added.

However, the MCI is yet to issue any clarification on this.

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