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2-min read

Visionary Move or Legalising Quackery? Stage Set for Doctors Vs Govt Showdown Over NMC Bill

The National Medical Council Bill, 2019, passed in the Lok Sabha on July 29, is being touted by the government as ‘one of the most visionary reforms’. But it has forced the doctors to hit the streets in protest.

Sneha Mordani | CNN-News18

Updated:July 31, 2019, 8:54 AM IST
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Visionary Move or Legalising Quackery? Stage Set for Doctors Vs Govt Showdown Over NMC Bill
Doctors and medical students protest to demand amendments to the National Medical Commission Bill 2019, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday. (News18)
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The Medical Council of India, synonymous with corruption, has finally been done away with. The government has brought in a legislation that has been cleared in the Lower House, but the medical fraternity is alleging that the government is compromising its interests and ‘legalising quackery’.

The National Medical Council Bill, 2019, passed in the Lok Sabha on July 29, is being touted by the government as ‘one of the most visionary reforms’. But it has forced the doctors to hit the streets in protest.

Intensifying their agitation on Wednesday, the Indian Medical Association, a body comprising four lakh doctors, has said that they will withdraw all non-essential services from 6 am on July 31 till 6 am on August 1. The Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA) has also joined the strike.

Dr Shantanu Sen, National President of the Indian Medical Association, told News 18 that appeals have been made to all associations to join the strike and build pressure on the government to incorporate the required changes. “I believe all doctors will join the strike and that will mean that at least 10 lakh doctors in the country will not deliver non-essential services,” Sen said, adding that emergency services and ICUs will remain operational.

Not just the doctors, health experts have also raised concerns about the Bill. Former health secretary K Sujata Rao wrote on Twitter that the National Medical Council Bill should have been discussed instead of being rammed through. “Wish the discussion could have gone beyond party affiliations… it’s our future,” she wrote.

Speaking on behalf of the Indian National Congress, MP Manish Tewari, during the discussion in Lok Sabha, said the Bill seeks to replace peer review with a government-controlled body which goes against the Constitution’s ethics. He also raised an important point about how this Bill would ensure inconsistencies in the fee structure, with only 50 per cent seats coming under the purview of NMC’s fee authorisation leaving the other 50 per cent under private medical colleges deeming the structure unjust for students.

The doctors allege that the government is trying to sell out the medical system to corporates by bringing out the Bill and dangerously legalising quackery in the country.

Section 32 of the Bill provides for licensing of the 3.5 lakh community of health providers to register themselves with the body and practice medicine.

Sources within the government told News18 that this has become essential due to the shortage of over six lakh doctors in the country. The Federation of Resident Doctors' Association claims that this will encourage malpractices. “Not just that, the government is discriminating between rural and urban India. Rural India will be treated by community health providers and those living in cities by regular MBBS doctors. This is discrimination,” says Dr Shantanu Sen.

The Bill seeks to regulate medical education and practice in India. It was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017 and the standing committee on health had recommended a number of changes to it. But the Bill had lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha.

The resident doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who would be taking part in the strike on Wednesday, are hoping for suitable amendments in the Bill in Rajya Sabha, without which it would encourage quackery in the health care system.

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