Govt retracts 2-yr medical internship proposal amid student backlash

The government has withdrawn a proposal to extend the existing year-long internship programme for MBBS graduates to two years, report agencies.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Aug 27 issued a circular attaching the draft policy and sought opinions on the issue by September 18. But the draft has been removed from its website amid protests by medical students against the move. Earlier, the students of Dhaka Medical College Hospital staged a rally on the campus and in front of the central Shaheed Minar on Sunday demanding the withdrawal of the proposal.

They also submitted a memorandum to the acting vice-principal of the college and the director of the hospital, Robin Haque, a student of DMCH said. The students of Sir Salimullah Medical College, who demonstrated on the streets on Saturday, resumed their protests on Sunday.
Doctors’ groups on social media remained abuzz with arguments against the plan.

The plan proposes posting second year medical interns to an upazilla health complex upon completing the first year of the internship in their respective medical college hospitals. At present, an aspiring physician, on completing the five-year MBBS course, has to undertake a year-long internship with a temporary license from the Bangladesh Medical & Dental Council (BMDC).

The license becomes permanent upon completing the internship from their respective medical college hospitals. Students argue that it takes six and a half years for a regular student to become a doctor. With an additional year of internship, it will now take seven and a half years. This will only prolong their entry to the job, the students argued.

They said in India and even in the United States, a doctor can complete post-graduation within that time. President of BMDC Prof Mohammod Shahidullah, who on Saturday told that they were not aware of the circular, said he had contacted the health ministry. “They have assured me the circular will be withdrawn,” he said, adding that any decision related to the medical curriculum or internship must be taken by the BMDC, a statutory body.

Earlier, he said the BMDC had formed a committee to look into the details of the feasibility of introducing two years of internship. “We have to think about the implications before taking any decision. Whether it’s feasible in the Bangladeshi context or not. And where will they stay if we send them to the upazillas and who will teach them?”

Dr Sheikh Abdullah Al Mamun, who is the secretary general of a new doctors’ platform, Foundation for Doctors' Safety and Rights, said internship is a part of the entire medical curriculum.