As the Sindh health ministry tightens its purse strings, hundreds of students of Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS) fear losing a whole year before their house job can begin.
The 2007-08 MBBS batch of students, around 360, will take their final exams in December, 2012. But, their one-year mandatory clinical training is unlikely to start before early 2014.
“The university authorities have told us that our senior batch [2006-07] will start the house job from February, 2013,” Malik Mussadiq, a final year student told The Express Tribune. “This means our house job will start after that batch completes its year.”
The delay has been attributed to the health ministry’s reluctance to release funds for the payment of stipends to the house job doctors of the two batches, whose total strength comes up to 760 doctors. The 2006-07 batch has 400 students whose training will commence next year - which is also a delay of about a year.
The batch was supposed to take their final year exams in December 2011 but they were postponed till May this year. “We were given an unnecessary preparation leave of three months while the papers continued for two months between May and June,” said Dr Navid while explaining the delay. He graduated from LUMHS in August this year but is still waiting to start the house job.
A month before the students set about their final year exams in December, several of them have gone on an indefinite token hunger strike. They hope to pre-empt the odds by resorting to the protests. “This is a crucial time when we should be preparing for the exams but the thought of wasting 12 to 14 months without a house job is more disturbing,” said Abdullah Memon, a final year student.
The students complained that their counterparts in other medical universities in Sindh were not facing the same problem and had in fact, started house jobs in the two hospitals of LUMHS in Jamshoro and Hyderabad. “We will not end the hunger strike unless the government assures us that we are going to be trained along with our senior batch,” declared Kailash Kumar, a final year MBBS student.
The problem of delayed house jobs has been occurring at the university for last several years. “Until some years ago, batches used to take six or more years to complete the five-year MBBS programme,” said Academics Director, Dr Shafi. Recently, the university started making sure that the programmes were completed within the stipulated time, he added.
According to Dr Jat, LUMHS has written several times to the health ministry to induct both the batches for the clinical training. “I submitted a detailed financial impact report six months ago at the health secretary’s office but there has been no response so far,” he told The Express Tribune.
The government pays Rs24,000 as monthly stipend to the house job doctors. For a batch of 400 doctors, it will need to pay Rs9.6 million per month in stipends which sum up to Rs115.2 million for a year.
If the two batches, however, are trained together the budget will almost double up to Rs218.88 million for a year with a monthly release of Rs18.24 million in stipends.
“For the university to ensure that students graduate on time, the government will also have to work in sync with us,” emphasised Dr Jat. “Eventually, the government has to pay for the stipends for both batches but it would be much productive if the delay in house jobs can be stopped right now.”
According to LUMHS Deputy Registrar Dr Saroop Bhatia, there have been times when the Sindh government paid stipends for overlapping batches. “The 1991 batch completed their training with their seniors.”
The health ministry officials could not be contacted to explain why funds cannot be released to train two batches together.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2012.
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