The nationwide movement under 'Save the Doctor' took place in Bangalore, Guwahati, Hissar in Haryana, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Mumbai and Mysore in Karnataka, about 100 km from here.
Dressed in lab coats and sporting a black band, the students urged the union health ministry to club the under-graduate and post-graduate seats to tackle the acute shortage of specialist doctors across the country.
"Though we have 47,600 seats for the under-graduate (UG) medical course across the country, post-graduate (PG) seats for specialisation in clinical disciplines is a mere 12,000.
In contrast, the US has 19,000 UG seats but 32,000 PG seats," Indian Medical Association (IMA) national coordinator Navneet Motreja told IANS here after the rally.
With about 40,000 students graduating as doctors competing for 12,000 PG seats with batch mates and over 100,000 seniors every year, shortage for specialist doctors is set to further widen.
In the PG entrance exam held under National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test last year, a whopping 90,000 doctors appeared for 12,000 seats and the one-year compulsory rural posting as a pre-requisite to qualify for PG course has worsened the situation.
"As medical graduates are struggling to get a PG seat, there is an urgent need to change the system as more specialists are required in the country. The present state of affairs in the medical fraternity is a cause for concern," Medanta chairman and managing director Naresh Trehan said in a statement from Gurgaon.
The top 10 causes of death in India include diseases of heart, diarrhoea, chronic respiratory disease and stroke. Nine out of 10 such patients require a specialist doctor to treat them.
"India lacks specialist doctors due to inadequate number of PG seats in medical institutions. Though the country has the largest number of medical institutions, the disparity in the number of seats allotted for PG and UG students along with the mandatory rural posting are affecting young doctors, as they end up spending 13 years merely studying," IMA secretary-general Narendra Saini said in the statement.
Noting that that the future of the healthcare system was at a huge risk, Saini said as senior specialist doctors/surgeons retire, there would be a dearth of such specialists, as a PG in any stream of medicine was essential for a doctor to become a specialist such as gynaecologist, neurologist, surgeon and radiologist.
"Young doctors of India are losing their productive years in studying to get a PG seat. There is a dearth of specialists in the country and limited PG seats will gravely affect the number of specialist doctors, available in the coming years," Saini noted.