For the past several months, government doctors in the State have been staging protests demanding better wages. They say that their salaries are not on a par with professionals with similar backgrounds in other fields.
Tough competition, low salaries and lack of job satisfaction have led to a scenario where MBBS and BDS students have given up on the profession and are exploring other careers, say medical professionals
Dr R Shanthi, who is a lawyer now, practiced medicine in the government sector for more than 20 years and then quit the profession. “I could not continue due to excessive pressure, low salary and regular involvement in medico-legal cases in the government sector. I studied law after that and have been practicing law since then, which not only offers better pay but also has less burden. The effort that goes into studying medicine and becoming a doctor is not rewarding, neither by money nor by appreciation,” she said.
The situation of dentists is even worse and students don’t even want to pursue dentistry which has become very evident as more than 12 per cent seats in government quota went vacant last year.
“I studied in a private dental college in Chennai and had no assurance or job security. I could not start a private clinic immediately, so I started working with an NGO in the city. After completing BDS, one has to either start their own clinic or work under someone who owns a dental clinic. After spending lakhs of money for the course, people work for salaries as low as Rs 5,000 a month,” said Dr Viswaja Sampath.
A city-based dentist, Raghav, who studied BDS at a private medical college, worked for a salary of Rs 15,000 at a private clinic and later started working part-time with Swiggy last year. Raghav is not the only one who had to struggle after spending a lot of money on his education.
There are doctors who have started restaurants or departmental stores after quitting medical profession, while there are many others who are unemployed. Some medicos have other full-time businesses and practice medicine only on a part-time basis.
Medical profession has become tougher to get into with huge competition right from the entrance level. The increased competition in the profession has led to more number of candidates backing out from the profession.
“The coaching institutions earn about Rs 1 lakh for a year of coaching for the entrance exam, either during schooling or after the schooling. After a year of training, the entrance exam is seeing more number of students appearing for the same. Moreover, the cut-offs are increasing year by year and the field has become competitive for the candidates who are taking up the medical profession,” said Dr R Ranjith, a junior doctor at Madras Medical College.
It is not just the entrance exams that are more competitive, but the profession has expanded to specialities and super-specialities and has added to the complexities of the profession.
“Around 15 years ago, doctors with MD or MS were most trusted in the specific branch of medicine. However, this has expanded to super-specialities as more number of medicos have entered the field. The scenario was different around 30 years ago when MBBS was sufficient to be a doctor and start practicing,” said Dr Manickvel, a retired physician from Stanley Medical College.
Low salaries are a bane
A doctor spends more than 15 years to study a super-speciality course and receives a salary of only about Rs one lakh or less per month in a government hospital and about a maximum of Rs 1.5 lakh in a private hospital. “The salary is comparatively very low as in any other profession, where the person has been in the profession for already 10 years after their graduation,” said Dr GR Ravindranath, secretary, Doctors’ Association of Social Equality.
Doctors say that the overall fee to complete a super-speciality course is about Rs one crore or a minimum of Rs 50 lakh. An MBBS graduate receives a salary of about Rs 20,000 to a maximum of Rs 40,000 in a private hospital in the State, while the pay is a maximum of Rs 45,000 in a government hospital after about seven years of college. The MD/MS graduates receive a maximum of Rs 80,000 per month in a private set-up after studying for more than 12 years. The pay for postgraduate medicos is even low in a government hospital, which is about Rs 60,000 to a maximum of Rs one lakh.
Medicos say that any other profession could earn them more money as they join the career only when others have already been in their specific field for more than 10 years.
Private hospitals hire specialists for salaries as low as Rs 20,000 to Rs 25,000 for the posts of pathology and radiology experts. More number of professionals have been entering the field, but not all of them find employment in the sector, added Ravindranath.
No job satisfaction
Doctors say that there is loss of time as the medicos have already reached an age of about 30 when they are speciality consultants. “The shifts are as long as 36 hours or more when super-speciality consultants join the field. However, there is a difference between a 25-year-old or younger doctor taking up 36 hour shifts and a 30-year-old or even older doctors attending long shifts. The age comes into play and it also affects the health of the doctors themselves. Besides the health factor, there is no satisfaction of pay and we are blamed by the patients if anything goes wrong,” said Dr Arvind Santhosh, a junior consultant at Kasturba Gandhi Government General Hospital.
Despite lack of job satisfaction and low salaries, we expect appreciation. However, we are exposed to blaming and even made to face medico-legal cases every now and then. This is one factor that forces us to look for other professions over medical profession,” added Arvind.
Medicos say that any doctor has to spend lakhs to get seats in private colleges and later take loans to set up clinics or hospitals.
“These days, only those students take up medicine whose parents are in the same field, giving them career security as they mostly have a private clinic or hospital. Otherwise, if they plan to have their own clinic or hospital, they have to spend lakhs of money on that. As the medical field is shrinking day by day, the students are exploring other career options. I was assisting my uncle after my graduation and then started my own store,” said V Shiva, who owns a departmental store now and is an MBBS graduate.