NEW DELHI: The Union Health Ministry Wednesday asked state governments to initiate steps for reopening of medical colleges from December 1 or before it, but with strict adherence to all COVID-19 related guidelines.
Educational institutions in the country have been closed since March in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the chief secretaries and the administrators of all states and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also suggested making non-COVID beds available in sufficient numbers in affiliated medical college-hospitals to facilitate undergraduate training.
The Health Ministry has obtained concurrence from the Ministry of Home Affairs for re-opening of medical colleges, the letter mentioned.
Accordingly, the states and UTs may take necessary steps to open the medical colleges on or before December 1, 2020, the health secretary said in his letter dated November 25.
Needless to say, all SOPs/guidelines with respect to social distancing and prevention of spread of epidemic issued by Central/states and UT governments will be followed scrupulously by all the colleges, he said.
The Centre's directive comes in the wake of the National Medical Commission recommending reopening of medical colleges from December 1 or before it for the MBBS students already pursuing their courses.
The NMC, which has received representations from students and medical colleges, noted that the current batch of interns (2020) have not completed their required clinical training and unless they do it, they would not be eligible for appearing for the PG-NEET exam.
It also noted that the PG-NEET exam for the academic year 2021-22 has been delayed as the eligible candidates will be completing their training late.
Their training is required to be completed at the earliest so that the PG -NEET exam for the academic year 2021-22 can be held accordingly, it said.
"Delay in resuming the training would have a cascading effect on training of next PG and super-speciality courses in the coming years," the NMC noted.
"The delayed new academic session for 2020-21 should commence from February 1, 2021.
The new PG session for the academic year 2020-21 should begin from at least July 1, 2021 and therefore the PG-NEET exam for AY 2020-21 would need to be scheduled around March-April 2021," the NMC said in a communique to the Health Ministry on November 12.
With opening of medical colleges and to facilitate UG training, all medical colleges affiliated hospitals would need to have sufficient number of beds for non-COVID patients and hence facilities for both outpatient and inpatient management for non-COVID patients must be re-started, if not already done, the NMC stated.
Further, it noted that the students today (and would-be doctors tomorrow) should also be familiar with the inherent threats and opportunities in healthcare systems which they would eventually handle themselves.
It should not become a missed opportunity for medical students to learn the skills of epidemic management as public health professional, the NMC said.