NMC Act to Usher in Big Reform in Healthcare, Says Harsh Vardhan as Bill Gets President’s Assent

Representative Image.

Representative Image.

In the next six to nine months, the new Act will form the apex regulatory body for medical education in India, called the National Medical Commission (NMC).

Sonal Matharu
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New Delhi: The National Medical Commission Bill 2019 has been signed by the President of India and it is now a law, said Union Health Minister and Family Welfare Harsh Vardhan on Thursday. The official notification of the same is expected later in the evening.

In the next six to nine months, the new Act will form the apex regulatory body for medical education in India, called the National Medical Commission (NMC). It will replace the defunct Medical Council of India (MCI), which was functional as per the Indian Medical Council (IMC) Act, 1956. “This Act will be counted as one of the big reforms in the country,” said Vardhan.

The MCI was dissolved in 2010 following a series of corruption charges against its then president Ketan Desai and other members. Since then, the Union government has been appointing body of governors each year through ordinances to perform the functions of the council.

Vardhan explained how with the setting up of the new commission, medical education in the country will see an overhaul.

To ensure that the quality of medical colleges is maintained, every such institute will now be rated by the commission. Also, the registry of doctors will have live updates, unlike the current registry maintained by the MCI.

This will give an accurate figure of how many doctors are registered and working at any given point in the country.

The common entrance exam for entrance in medical colleges — National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) — will continue and from the next admission year, even AIIMS will be a part of it.

To streamline the examination system further, all final-year MBBS graduates will have one common exit exam, called NEXT, which will also be used as the basis for their admission in post-graduate medical colleges.

The minister said this will ease the exam burden off children as they would have to appear for only one exam.

In case students do not score well in NEXT, they can re-appear next year. “There is no bar on retesting. Exit exams will be implemented in the next three years and all stakeholders will be consulted for it,” Vardhan added.

The Indian Medical Association, the biggest association of doctors in India, has been vehemently opposing the introduction of community health practitioners in the new law. It argues that this move by the government will legalise quackery.

But the minister said that having trained community health practitioners is a global practice and these practitioners can help in early diagnosis of diseases in the rural areas.

The ministry is also going to use the services of these mid-level practitioners for the 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres which are proposed under the National Health Mission.

“The government has tried everything to bring doctors to rural areas. In states like Bihar, the doctors have been asked to quote the amount they want to work in rural postings, and the government will give it to them. However, there is still deficiency in the field,” said Vardhan.

The fine for quackery, which was Rs 1,000 under the IMC Act, has now been raised to Rs 5 lakh and one year of imprisonment.

Regarding regulating the fee for private medical seats, currently there is no provision where the MCI has the authority to control it.

Some states have signed memorandums of understanding with private colleges where they can have some control over the fee structure of those colleges. The commission will now have the power to cap the fee of 50 per cent of seats in private medical colleges.

There are about 80,000 undergraduate medical seats. Of these, 40,000 are in private colleges. The commission will regulate the fee of 20,000 of these seats. For the remaining 20,000 seats, the states are free to cap it.

“This way the centre is controlling fee for 75 per cent seats in private colleges. Even on the remaining 25 per cent seats, the states can take their own decision,” said Vardhan.

The commission will have a fair representation of the states and members will have a fixed four-year tenure.

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