“Why the medical fraternity is protesting against the National Medical Commission Bill” was originally published in The News Minute and has been reprinted here with permission. Read the original article here.
By Dr Nimeshika Jayachandran
As the Union Cabinet gave its final nod to the controversial National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill on July 17, several doctors continue to express their displeasure with the bill and have been protesting against it. The bill will be introduced in the Lok Sabha for the first time on Monday, despite the medical community’s opposition to several clauses in it. So why are so many doctors staunchly against the bill?
“It’s not only about forming a new medical body, but some of the new propositions made by the NMC bill are absolutely ridiculous. For instance, they are planning to introduce six month long ‘bridge courses’ to students from courses such as physiotherapy, nursing and all, who would be trained to work in a rural healthcare centre. A six month course is not enough to ensure that they are equipped with the same skills as a doctor who receives more training,” stated Dr Naresh, president of the Junior Doctors’ Association (JUDA) and postgraduate student at Osmania Medical College and Hospital. He is among several students taking part in the protests being held against the bill and his sentiment is echoed by many.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) too has expressed its concerns over clauses of the bill.
“It not only impinges on the rights of doctors, but it impacts the rights of patients as well and will definitely affect poor patients. Furthermore, if the government is looking to introduce Homeopathic and AYUSH practitioners into mainstream healthcare, they shouldn’t go about it by introducing bridge courses which will allow these doctors to practice in the same way and prescribe the same medications as allopathic doctors and that certainly is of concern to us,” said Dr Sanjeev Singh of the IMA.
He further added that doctors around the country would not hesitate to protest against the bill, if the amendments suggested to the NMC were not taken into consideration. Several doctors have been protesting since the Union Cabinet announced it would be incorporating the NMC Bill. Doctors from Osmania Hospital in Hyderabad continued to protest on Monday morning in view of the bill’s introduction in the Lok Sabha.
What is the National Medical Commission Bill?
The National Medical Commission Bill was first introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2017, as an alternative to the Medical Council Act of 1956. The MCI, which has long been overseeing the functions of healthcare and medical education had been under scrutiny since corruption charges against several members of the MCI led to demands that the MCI be dissolved and replaced with an improved medical body, which would take over the functions of the MCI.
However, in addition to this, the NMC Bill also wants to implement exit exams after the undergraduate medical degrees in addition to the already existing final-year exams. The proposed exit exams, called the National Exist Test (NEXT), would also serve as the basis for which students could be eligible to apply for a postgraduate course. Furthermore, students who have completed medical studies outside India would be required to take the NEXT exam prior to being able to legally practice in India.
In addition, it also seeks to introduce bridge courses to train students from paramedical courses such as physiotherapy, nursing to be able to be primary medical caregivers in rural areas. The NMC also plans on extending the bridge courses to homeopathic and AYUSH practitioners in an attempt to ensure that all positions in rural healthcare centres are filled.
But several doctors from allopathic practices have protested this. They allege that this is merely a “quick-fix” and that utilising paramedical and AYUSH practitioners would only be a short-term solution to the lack of doctors and medical personnel in rural areas. An IMA source told TNM that following the introduction of the NMC Bill in 2017, a list of amendments had been submitted by doctors.
“If they had or even now take our suggestions into consideration, it would be beneficial to everyone,” stated the source, further noting that the IMA was ready to support a nationwide doctors protest if that’s what it would take for officials to pay heed to the amendments suggested to the NMC bill.