I decided to do this topic on my sister’s insistence. She is in her second year of medicine currently and given her lack of access to internet and busy schedule that involves dissecting bodies, going to rural homes and collecting information regarding toilet sizes and shouting slogans for better stipends among other things, I decided to take it upon myself to talk about a few things that have been on my mind for quite sometime now.
It is a universal truth that the competition when it comes to engineering and medicine exams is the most intense in Andhra Pradesh. At least for aspiring engineers, the options are plenty. The same cannot be said about Medicine aspirants. First, you have to get a seat in a Government college because they are the best. Why? Will get to this a little later. Second, because the intake per batch is around 150 students in a govt. college and there are around 5 really good ones around, the seats up for grabs are approximately 750. Now, if you consider the 1001 varieties of reservations that we have, the number becomes less and less pretty. Also, if one does want to try out for national exams like AIIMS and JIPMER, one has to be exceptionally brilliant because after all the quota math is done, the seats available are in single digit. Thus, for an aspiring medico in AP, life is like a pressure cooker. These were facts my sister was aware of before she chose biology, and she worked her butt off to do well in EAMCET. And she did do very well. She got a rank below 200 which would have been great for her to get into either OU or Gandhi. But, in our lovely state we also have region wise reservation. So, her rank was not enough for even Gandhi while people who got 300+ ranks but belonged to this region, got it. It was tough for my sister to accept this because in spite of securing a good rank, she could not study in a college of her choice because of factors beyond her control. Nevertheless, it was a blessing in disguise because had she studied in Hyderabad, given the Telangana agitation and the effect it had on students, I am sure she would have regretted her decision. She got into AMC – Andhra Medical college in Vizag which is a good college in a good city and is aligned to KGH – King George Hospital, one of the oldest and most well known government hospitals in Andhra Pradesh.
So, filled with excitement, my sister went into AMC knowing that it would not be as comfortable as say,my college- IIITH but hoping that her home for the next 5 odd years would look better than an abandoned old shack. Trust me, the hostels and facilities are bad in these colleges. Then what makes these government colleges the first choice for students? They do not have great infrastructure, the hostels are terrible and the facilities are substandard. Well, apparently these are not the deciding factors when it comes to medical colleges. The two most important factors are number of dead bodies and the variety of medical cases. Government hospitals provide absolutely free treatment. Hence, the number of people coming in is huge. Also, a majority of private hospitals do not take in ‘rare’ cases. Which explains why hospitals like KGH, Osmania and Gandhi are overflowing with patients. Most of them poor. Thus, there is a lot to learn for medicine students who have access to all this. 5-10 students dissecting one body is a privilege, my sister says. No wonder then that she feels that in spite of the bad hostels and food, it was the best decision of her life to study at AMC.
I understand why government colleges are badly maintained. The fees are minimal and like in any government set-up, there is a huge process to follow before any change can be implemented. But, can’t a proper hostel with adequate security and water supply be constructed? Medical students have been taken for granted. They work hard day in, day out and by the time they are in their 3rd, 4th years they are already doing lot of tangible work in the hospitals. I am sure government funding must be available but if it is not sufficient, then please stop giving permission for newer colleges. Improve the conditions in existing ones. We do not need another XYZ Reddy College of Engineering. We need quality doctors who do not run away to foreign countries because they are frustrated with the system in place.
My sister tells me about how there are doctors who work hard in the hospital and then go back to their private clinic and work there. The salaries are not enough. A house surgeon who is on 24×7 duty, does not even have snacks privileges. Their stipend per month is 7500. And there are times when they do not get that for months at a stretch. Which explains why there are so many dharnas and protests by medicos. They are just fighting for their rights. Some shocking realities
– Since there is such a severe shortage of wheelchairs, plastic chairs have been put on planks with wheels to bring in patients. What makes matters worse is that ward boys/girls and attendants steal those chairs and sell them off for some quick cash.
– There have been occasions when x-rays could not be done because of lack of water!
– Lot of pregnant women come in to the hospital just when they are in labour. They do not have reports or documents about their medical history with them. The hospital cannot turn anyone away. Hence, they are taken into the maternity ward and prepared for delivery. if complications arise and something wrong happens, the relatives jump on the doctors and accuse them of bad treatment. Lot of junior doctors have been beaten up at government hospitals. Also, these women do not get a HIV test done. Imagine the risk at which the doctor is while conducting an operation.
– Almost all HIV+ patients come to government hospitals. Since, students need to be aware of the entire case, they are forced to ask questions regarding the nature of their lifestyle. This actually turns out to be very difficult since most of the cases involve infidelity and the spouse is unaware.
– The students are discouraged from wearing gloves while examination of some patients since these patients do not like being touched with gloves and refuse to co-operate.
– Even last referrals and terminally ill patients are taken in without any questions asked. And when the patient does die, it adds up to the count of deaths in government hospital!
– Because of lack of beds and space, some patients get their own mattresses and lay them on the floors. It becomes very difficult to maintain hygiene and cleanliness with so many people around.
– As requirements of a particular course, students are asked to visit slums and educate its residents about cleanliness, sanitation etc. Most of the times, doors have been slammed on the faces of the medicos because the people there do not see the government doing anything to improve the living standards. Yet, the students try their best to enter the houses and talk to the people.
– During one such visit, my sister was explaining to a couple that it is better if a guy gets vasectomy done instead of asking his wife to get operated for birth control because a woman’s system is complicated and she tried to dispel the myths surrounding this procedure. The man almost hit my sister asking her not to brainwash his wife !!
Compared to my college life, this sounds like hell. Yes, students in medical colleges do have fun. They do go to movies and hang out in cafes and go on trips. But, the circumstances and conditions in the government colleges and hospitals are so tough that sometimes, having fun does not seem that important. I wish something could be done about it though. The life of a medical student is tough. Very very tough. Even without the bad hostels and facilities, it is hard and demanding. Then why make it tougher by denying them proper water supply and cleanliness and security. The conditions are appalling to say the least. I could have never survived in an environment like this and I have tremendous respect for all these students who work so hard. I just hope that more funding is provided to these institutions and the administration wakes up and makes use of it. Medicine is a noble profession and to stop it from getting any more commercial, the first step is to gain the trust of the students and doctors working in the government organizations.