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IMA spanner in paid medical berth plan

Two days before the Medical Council of India (MCI) pays a second visit to the SSKM Hospital in a fortnight, the controversy over ‘medical seats for an enhanced fee’, in this year’s MBBS courses, has deepened.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), on Saturday, announced that it would block the “enhanced fees” scheme even if the MCI gives the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government the go-ahead for 200 additional seats.

The government, anticipating a green signal from the MCI, is planning to enrol medical students under the “pay and study” schemes in two undergraduate courses of SSKM Hospital and Midnapore Medical College.

Both the Bengal and the Calcutta branches of the IMA, the largest representative body of doctors, have decided to oppose the government’s move.

Earlier, 70 seats from a total of 905 medical seats had been “reserved” for students who were willing to pay an extra price to book a berth.

But under pressure from various quarters, including the JEE Guardians’ Forum (medical), which filed a case in Calcutta High Court, the government promised to fill up the vacancies within September 15.

Left Front leaders, in a meeting held earlier this week, also decided to propose the immediate filling up of the 70 vacant seats. The IMA, therefore, is waiting to see if the government sticks to its September 15 deadline, failing which member-doctors have threatened to call a “general strike” throughout the state.

“This decision to fill the 70 seats has been a big victory for us. But we will still not allow the government to introduce enhanced-fee study schemes,” said IMA joint secretary (headquarters) R.D. Dubey.

The government, meanwhile, is waiting for the MCI verdict — following the inspection of the University College of Medicine (UCM), adjacent to SSKM Hospital — to tide over the trouble. “We hope to get the necessary permission for additional seats within the time limit of September 15,” said C.R. Maity, director of medical education.

Extra seats or not, the IMA seems determined to block the government’s bid to accommodate ‘paying’ students. “We have decided to wait and watch for the next few days before embarking on a larger agitation all over the state,” said IMA state secretary Moloy Patra.

The SSKM authorities, meanwhile, have asked the post-graduate trainees to vacate two floors of the hostel to accommodate the new “undergraduate” students, sparking protests.

“We have asked the students to sacrifice a little bit of space for the new students, since we hope to get the MCI go-ahead, but they are determined not to budge an inch,” said a senior health department official.

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