Caught in delays, NEET-PG aspirants stare at uncertain future

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With resident doctors from major medical college-associated government hospitals across the country continuing to protest against repeated delays in the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test for Postgraduate Courses (NEET-PG) counselling and admission, services in these hospitals have remained affected for 14 days now. The protesting doctors will hold a meeting today where they are expected to take a call on whether or not to end the strike.

The Indian Express spoke to the following aspirants who despite clearing NEET-PG held in September have not got admission in PG courses so far, with the crisis putting them under acute financial and social distress.

Dr Shruti Pansare, Pune

The delay has left Pune-based Dr Pansare uncertain not only about her finances but also her future.

“One whole year has been wasted because of the delays in conducting the NEET-PG exam and now counselling. I am already 28 years old. For the next three years I will be studying and working full time for my post-graduation. So, I will be 31 by the time I can even think of marriage — without counselling there is no certainty of where I will end up for the next three years. By the time I try to have children, I will be 32. We tell our patients that if they want to have children, they should have it by the time they are 30. But I will not have that opportunity,” she said.

“It is not just the financial pressure — I haven’t worked in over a year — there are also social pressures that we need to think about,” Dr Pansare said.

After completing MBBS in 2017 and a one-year internship in 2018, she took NEET-PG for the first time in 2020, but with her rank above 21,000 she could not get the PG course of her choice. So, she moved to Delhi and started working as a “non-academic” junior resident doctor at Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.

She quit her job in September 2020 to prepare for NEET-PG that was originally slated for January 2021 but was deferred first to April and then to September.

Dr Pansare, who secured a rank above 9,000 in her second attempt, is now anxiously waiting for her PG admission.

“Due to the uncertainty about the NEET-PG dates, I have not been able to join work again. Also, it would have broken the flow of my studies. Now, hospitals are unwilling to hire us because they know that we will quit the job soon (after PG admission),” she said.

Dr Preya Joshi, Bhuj

After completing her MBBS and internship, Dr Preya Joshi, based in Gujarat’s Bhuj, started preparing for NEET-PG six months before the original exam date, January 6, 2021. However, in November 2020, she learned that the exam will be postponed. The exam dates were then scheduled for April.

“We even received our admit cards, but just two days before the exam it was pushed further. We were told that the exam will not happen for another four months, so I joined the Covid duty. All this uncertainty adds to mental stress, it has resulted in people getting worse ranks,” she said.

With her rank being above 15,000, Dr Joshi is uncertain whether she can get admission in her preferred course — anaesthesia or gynaecology.

“I want to appear for NEET-PG again and its dates have been announced for March 12, 2022, but can it happen if this year’s counselling is not completed yet? I don’t know what to do,” she said.

Like Dr Pansare, Dr Joshi is finding it difficult to land a job in a hospital as it would know that she is biding time for her PG counselling and admission.

Dr Sarang Bombatkar, Buldhana

Amid continued delays in the NEET-PG counselling and admission process, Dr Sarang Bombatkar, based in Maharashtra’s Buldhana, said he has been sitting at home
for more than a year now.

“We are wasting so much time. I am not studying, not working. All hospitals say they will hire us only for four or six months, they do not want
us because we will quit when the (PG) admissions happen,” he said.

Dr Bombatkar also said that with the change in the NEET-PG admission quotas this year, he is not sure if he would be able to get the courses of his choice such as anaesthesia, ENT, or community medicine. “The pattern has changed this year and I cannot figure out what I might get. All this uncertainty is adding to my stress,” he added.

Dr Manish Rundla Choudhary, Kota

What is worrying Kota-based Dr Manish Rundla Choudhary is that while he has been at home for the last one year because of uncertainty over the NEET-PG counselling, his resident doctor friends have been exhausted after working round the clock.

“First the NEET-PG dates, and now even the counselling dates are uncertain. I was not able to plan my studies. And this is the reason I cannot join a job too — either I have to let go of my PG seat or two-month salary (at a hospital) for not serving notice period (after taking admission in a PG course),” he said.

Dr Choudhary said his friends who got through NEET-PG in 2020 have worked tirelessly through the two Covid waves. “The third-year resident doctors (in final year PG) will soon be relieved to be able to study for their final exams and only one batch of PG students (in second-year) will remain in the colleges (and hospitals),” he said, referring to the fact that fresh PG admissions have remained frozen.

Dr Risabh Kohli, Delhi

The 28-year-old resident of Delhi’s C R Park underlines the point that he lost one year due to the NEET-PG episode. Dr Kohli, who had finished his graduation from Armenia’s Yerevan State Medical University, cleared NEET-PG this year.

Echoing the anguish of other young PG aspirants, Dr Kohli says it is disturbing that despite clearing the exam, they can neither take admission in PG courses, nor can they join a job.

There have been delays and uncertainty about everything related to NEET-PG, he said, bemoaning that “the third Covid wave is at your door and this is the time when things should have been expedited instead of getting delayed”.

Dr Manish Singla, Faridabad

Dr Singla (28), who lives in Faridabad, graduated from Karnataka’s Basaveshwara Medical College. After preparing for two years, he qualified for NEET-PG this year — and continues to wait for admission now. “Almost a year has been wasted. The January NEET exam was delayed and pushed to September. The new reservation policy further delayed things,” he said.

The situation, Dr Singla said, is grimmer for those PG aspirants who did not get good ranks. He also maintained that the aspirants were caught in uncertainty of whether they should wait for counselling or land a job.

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