New Delhi: Protests against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019 continued on Friday, despite Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan persuading doctors and medical students to end the strike in interest of patients.
Harsh Vardhan on Friday met protesting doctors, members of medical body Indian Medical Association (IMA) and medical students and urged them to resume work, assuring that the legislation is in the interest of doctors, patients, medical students and the society. The government has touted the Bill as one of the biggest reforms in medical education in India. Rajya Sabha passed the Bill on Thursday.
The IMA has been calling the Bill ‘anti-poor’, ‘anti-student’ and ‘undemocratic’ and promotes quackery. IMA has been raising concerns over Section 32 of the NMC Bill that provides for licensing of 3.5 lakh non-medical persons or Community Health Providers to practise modern medicine.
According to the Bill, the Commission may grant limited license to practice medicine at mid-level as Community Health Provider to such person connected with modern scientific medical profession who qualifies such criteria as may be specified by the regulations.
“I have tried to explain that how NMC will work. I also explained the role of Community Health Providers (CHP). The concept of mid-level practitioners is recognized worldwide and this concept has also been highlighted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Lancet Journal,” Harsh Vardhan said citing examples of developed and developing countries like the US, the UK, Australia, China and Africa who follow a similar arrangement.
“The National Medical Commission will decide who all need to be trained and how they can be included in primary healthcare system. Doctors should not defy their duties towards patients. NMC Bill is a blessing for aspiring doctors. Those who are not able to understand it today will realize its benefits in the coming years,” Harsh Vardhan said.
IMA, in its reply, said that it can never accept Section 32 of the Act providing for unqualified non-medical persons being registered and allowed to practice. Their ability and capability will always be doubtful and not to talk of irreparable damage to healthcare management, it said.
The NMC bill was passed with two new amendments introduced by the Upper House. This means the bill will be referred to the Lok Sabha once again before going to the President of India for his assent.
“The amendments preferred by the Rajya Sabha are partial remedy to only one of the demands. The core concerns remain unaddressed. Certain assurances given in the floor of Rajya Sabha are not there in the records of Lok Sabha. IMA would need concrete assurances on the rest of the demands,” said Santanu Sen, National President, IMA.
“The medical students of the country under IMA- Medical Student Network (MSN) are on strike. Hunger strikes and Raj Bhavan marches have been organized in most states. IMA proclaims solidarity with the Resident Doctors Associations. IMA has called for on emergency All India Action Committee meeting on Sunday, 4 August, 2019 in IMA headquarters, New Delhi. The struggle against Section 32 and other detrimental clauses will continue. The Action Committee will take appropriate decisions for the future course of action,” he said.
Even after the meeting between the health minister and the striking doctors, healthcare services at many government hospitals in various parts of the country remained hit due to continued protests. The doctors have withdrawn all services, including emergency services, in protest against the bill since Thursday morning.
The NMC Bill proposes to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and replace the Medical Council of India (MCI), which was dissolved in 2010 following corruption charges against its president Ketan Desai by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As per the Bill, a national medical commission will be set up in place of MCI that will have responsibilities such as approving and assessing medical colleges, conducting common MBBS entrance and exit examinations and regulating medical course fees.