The Ministry of Education has endorsed the decision of Nepal Medical Council to grant approval letters to students going abroad for MBBS studies only if they secure 50 per cent or higher marks in entrance exams at Nepali universities. NMC implemented the mandatory screening tests for medical students after it found that many foreign graduates who returned home to work as doctors failed its licensing tests. Doctors need the NMC license to practice in Nepal, but 70 per cent of the returnees from Chinese universities, for example, failed its licensing exams. Data show some 500 students are going abroad, mostly to Bangladesh and China, to study dentistry and medicine every year.
So, starting from 2012/13, the aspiring doctors will need to pass MBBS and BDS entrance exams from one of these home institutions, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences and the Ministry of Education, which administers the MBBS scholarship tests, to pursue studies abroad. In the words of NMC authorities, the new provision seeks to stop ‘incapable’ students from becoming doctors. On the surface, this sounds like a good preventive measure. But what about practicing doctors, who went abroad without any screening test and returned to take up jobs here in the past?
If NMC has a genuine concern about improving the overall health of the medical profession, palliative and curative treatments are urgent for other ailments, some of which are more sinister. Reports of doctors removing healthy organs and teeth instead of the ones needing removal tell not all is well with our medical practice. Common people often complain that the men and women on white robes with stethoscopes are busy, inattentive experts, whose main motivation is profit rather than helping the sick in the Hippocratic sense.
So,the question is not just about the quality of doctors, who obtained their qualifications abroad. It has also to do with the doctor’s individual traits and work ethics. The profession’s oath demands doctors practice humility, compassion and dedication to work for the welfare of the sick. NMC will have served a greater role if it awakens this professional conscience in Nepali doctors. Let the students returning from medical studies abroad fail the NMC exams -- that is their problem.
NMC should become stricter in its licensing exams and concentrate on making those who pass them to serve the sick, poor and the ailing millions in the rural hinterlands as a prized duty of the profession. Preventing some students from going abroad for studies may help save some money for the nation, but that alone will not solve the problem of the profession.