Doctors and nurses in the frontline of the battle against coronavirus will miss the exams to get into the prestigious All-India Institute of Medical Sciences for post-graduate courses this year. The rules for the entrance exams not only allow only asymptomatic candidates, they also bar anyone who was in contact with coronavirus patients. Those appearing for exams also need to sign a declaration on their admit cards saying so, and will be held legally liable if the information proves wrong.
The exams for post-graduate nursing, MD, MS and specialty DM and MCH courses are held every year by AIIMS. Many junior doctors, house staff and interns sit for these exams across 150 centers spread across the country.
But this year, there are some special rules for the exams scheduled to be held on June 11.
"Only asymptomatic people with no history of contact with a COVID positive case can appear," reads the rules, a copy of which is with NDTV. The doctors are also made to sign a pre-exam declaration that they have not been in contact with any COVID-19 patient and that they would be liable to legal action if they "lie/hide information".
Taken together, the rules could bar nearly 70 per cent of those appearing for the examination -- junior doctors, house staff and interns, who have are regularly exposed to coronavirus patients.
Doctors battling coronavirus are fuming, alleging they are being excluded.
"Is this justice? Is this the reward for my service to the nation? On the one hand, you label doctors as heroes, you shower flowers on them, on the other, you are doing this?" said Dr Viabhav Trivedi, who refused to reveal details about his workplace.
Dr Rachit Singhania, who works at a dedicated coronavirus facility in Gurugram, however, took the situation into account. "We could be asymptomatic and potential carriers and it could lead to widespread transmission in the exam center," he said.
There are also logistical challenges involved, with exam centers being located far away and sometimes not accessible under the current circumstances. NDTV accessed the admit card of a student form Delhi whose exam center is in Meerut. A student living in Pondicherry is expected to go to Tiruchirappalli, 200 km away, for the exam.
On condition of anonymity, an aspirant said there are around 200 applicants from Nepal, who cannot appear for the exam since the borders have been sealed. Besides, there are also applicants who live in containment zones and many others, who are in quarantine.
Doctors are demanding that the exam be postponed till the conditions are more favorable.
But the Director of AIIMS, Dr Randeep Guleria, said now is the only time to conduct exams, as the peak of the disease is still two or three months away. Postponing the exams now will lead to the waste of an entire academic year, he told NDTV.
Dr Adarsh Pratap Singh, the president of the AIIMS Resident Doctors' Association, claimed all doctors can sit for the exam. "The declaration is meant to segregate doctors. The strategy is to provide frontline workers a separate room," he claimed.