The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard the plea for the induction of foreign medical graduates for the augmentation of healthcare workers during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and M.R. Shah granted three weeks’ time to the National Medical Commission to file its reply to the plea filed seeking direction mandating the induction of foreign medical graduates in the healthcare workforce of the country to augment the ailing healthcare system. The bench has also granted one week’s time to the petitioners to reply and file their rejoinder to the Commission’s affidavit, thereafter.
Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of foreign medical graduates and submitted that he is not pressing their prayer seeking exemption from the Foreign Medical Graduates Examination as a one-time measure for being inducted as Doctors.
Thereafter its disinclination towards allowing the prayer seeking a reduction in the qualifying criteria for those Foreign Medical Graduates that took FMG Examination on 4th December 2020 to bring it at par with that of the NEET PG Examination 2020.
Advocate Gaurav Sharma, appearing for the National Medical Commission, asked for 3 weeks’ time to file his reply and stated that “considering the students have done their medical courses from Russia, China, etc, hence the Commission is unaware of their level of qualification.”
Then Sibal submitted, “There are two categories of people, one Russian students who sat for exam and passed it and have been registered but not being assigned any job. Another category, is those who have passed it but have not been granted internship.” He further stated that for these two categories relief has to given, without any dispute as the students have already cleared the examination.
The bench noted that the Commission will have to explain everything through an affidavit and adjourned the proceeding for the day. The plea has been filed as a one-time measure, to allow foreign medical graduates to do internships before they clear the mandatory “Screening Test” for registration and practice as doctors in India. The petitioner is requesting this concession looking at the present Covid-19 pandemic and the current tsunami of the second wave.
“The doctor-population ratio in India is 1:1456 against the WHO recommendation of 1:1000 and in the ongoing mayhem of the second wave; India is desperately short of doctors and support staff. In this backdrop to overcome the shortage of doctors and support staff, Respondent no. 1 and 2 vide their letters [both] dated May 3, 2021, have suggested utilizing final year MBBS students for Covid duties. The petitioner vides the present petition wants to propose the inclusion of foreign medical graduates who are qualified doctors, to be utilized as Covid Warriors in the government and private hospitals, nursing homes, makeshift hospitals built to accommodate the surge in Covid patients, etc,” the plea highlights.
The plea also states, “Every year around 15,000 to 20,000 foreign medical graduate students appear in the Screening Test, these are doctors eligible to practice medicine in the country they have graduated from. In India, there is a bar under the Screening Test Regulations 2002 [Regulation 11] that unless and until foreign medical graduates clear the Screening Test they are not eligible to register themselves as doctors in India. The Petitioner is seeking a one-time exemption to Regulation 11 to cater the need of the nation crying for help.”The plea has raised the following question of law for the relief it has sought:-
1. Whether Regulation 11 of the Screening Test Regulation, 2002 is arbitrary and discriminatory?
2. Whether Regulation 11 of the Screening Test Regulation, 2002 discriminates foreign medical graduates against Indian medical graduates and puts foreign medical graduates in a disadvantageous position?
3. Whether during the present Covid-19 pandemic and medical emergency, Regulation 11 of the Screening Test Regulation, 2002 should be set aside to make way for 15,000 to 20,000 foreign medical graduates [doctors] in India?
4. If the Regulation cannot be set aside, can there be a onetime exemption?