A move by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to address the shortage of cardiac specialists has divided the city’s medical community.
A two-year full-time course, called Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical Cardiology (PGDCC), was introduced by IGNOU to enable an MBBS graduate to practise non-interventional clinical cardiology. The course was introduced because of a severe shortage of experts in the field.
Some cardiologists feel that it produces semi-qualified specialists. “This is a dangerous trend. These people cannot be called specialists. They would not have extensive knowledge and also the hands-on experience needed for interventional cardiology,” said Dr Belle Monappa Hegde, noted cardiologist and former Vice-Chancellor of Manipal University.
He feels that the course was introduced because in the fee-for-service set-up in India, cardiology is a money-spinner. Dr Hegde said many posts of specialists were vacant because “every private hospital wants to have a cardiology department to mint money.”
Meanwhile, doctors who have completed the PGDCC are pushing the government to create posts for them.
“If these posts are filled, we could treat more than 80 per cent of the cardiac diseases that people are suffering from,” said Dr Ravishankar H P, a doctor from a district hospital in Hassan who recently completed his course.
He said there are no posts for clinical cardiologists in the Karnataka government health sector and the mere five posts that exist are for cardiologists.
“If they go to peripheral and rural areas they can work as non-interventional clinical cardiologists and treat myocardial infarction, stabilise heart failure and also manage a Coronary Care Unit,” he said.
Recognised by MCI
The PGDCC is not recognised by the Medical Council of India (MCI). But still, each year, as many as 150 doctors pass out of the IGNOU course, of which one-third are from Karnataka. Most of these doctors work as assistants of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons and mention their degree as ‘DM-Cardiology’.
Dr C N Manjunath, director, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research (SJICSR), feels that the PGDCC course has opened the floodgates for quackery. “PGDCC should not be entertained. These courses are only producing mediocre doctors who can be employed as clinical cardiologists at low salaries,” he said.
According to information available, cardiologists who have completed their specialty and super-specialty courses earn around Rs 1 lakh per month while specialists who have only done the diploma are paid Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000.
Referring to the huge shortage of specialist doctors, including cardiologists in the country, noted cardiac surgeon Dr Devi Prasad Shetty said the State government should take note of the matter. Only 12,500 PG seats are available to cater to around 49,000 MBBS graduates who pass out of colleges every year. “There are two lakh doctors waiting to become specialists, but there are no seats. Cardiologists with the diploma must be allowed to practise as 99 per cent of patients want clinical cardiac treatment and only 1 per cent require angiograms, angioplasty and other interventions,” he said.
“Many doctors are also joining PGDCC out of frustration as they do not get PG seats,” he added.