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BENGALURU : Faced with acute shortage of doctors as the case load touches the one-lakh-mark, the Karnataka government has made it mandatory for all graduate, postgraduate and super specialty medical students in the state to report for covid duty immediately. As many as 14,000 students graduate every year from Karnataka’s 56 medical colleges. The state has recorded more than 5,000 cases a day for three days in a row.

Invoking the Disaster Management Act, 2020, as well as the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, along with the Karnataka Compulsory Services Training by Candidates Completed Medical Courses (amendment) Act, 2012, the state’s medical education director Dr PG Girish in his 23 July order has directed all medical colleges in the state to ask its students to report to the government for postings.

“The need of the hour is to prepare a process to have adequate healthcare workers as we predict the spread of the pandemic," said Dr U S Vishal Rao, member of the consultative group to the Centre’s Principal Scientific Advisor.

Early this month, the Karnataka Medical Council asked all registered medical practitioners to offer their services at government and private hospitals. “The council has requested all registered doctors to come forward and help the government in this hour of crisis. They can be in service or not practising. We need to address the doctor shortage on a war footing," said KMC president Dr H Veerabhadrappa.

At Sri Devaraj Urs Academy of Higher Education and Research, Kolar, which has treated over 300 covid cases, absenteeism is rising. “Our doctors and healthcare workers are tired. Absenteeism is increasing in all our hospitals. We need new resources to bail them out. Else, we will not have doctors to treat patients," said the university’s chancellor Dr S Kumar.

Though the Karnataka government initiated the compulsory rural/government service for all medical graduates passing out of its government colleges, the law has been weakened as the government now allows students to just pay a fine if they violate the rule.

“The penalty is Rs1 lakh. Most just paid up and skipped government service. The idea behind compulsory service is social responsibility. The government spends about 7.5 lakh on every student studying in its government colleges. Instead of ensuring the students did service, the government took cash from them. Today, we are facing the brunt of these ill-thought through policies. If you had said no permanent registration with medical council unless you serve in rural areas or government service, it would have worked," Dr Kumar explained.

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