Udayavni Special

IMA calls strike on Wednesday against passage of NMC Bill in Lok Sabha

PTI, Jul 30, 2019, 7:34 PM IST

New Delhi: The IMA has given a call for a 24-hour withdrawal of non-essential services across the country to protest the passage of the National Medical Commission Bill, which seeks to replace the graft-tainted Medical Council of India, saying it is “anti-poor, anti-student and anti-democratic”.

Emergency, casualty, ICU and other related services will remain unaffected.

The Indian Medical Association, the largest body of doctors and students in the country with around three lakh members, has called for demonstrations and hunger strikes at its local branches and urged medical students to boycott classes and proclaim solidarity with IMA.

It warned in a statement it will intensify agitation if the government continues to be “indifferent to their concerns”.

Meanwhile, doctors associated with the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) and Resident Doctors’ Association at AIIMS showed up to work wearing black badges as a mark of protest.

The bill was passed by Lok Sabha on Monday as thousands of doctors protested across the country against it. The bill provides for setting up of a National Medical Commission in place of MCI for development and regulation of all aspects of medical education, profession and institutions.

The medical fraternity is anguished that the health minister, a surgeon, instead of including key recommendations made by the Parliament Standing Committee, replaced many provisions with clauses detrimental to the doctors’ community. The fraternity claims the bill will encourage quackery.

The IMA rejects the bill and its protest will continue, Santanu Sen, national president of IMA, said.

“Section 32 of the NMC Bill provides for licensing of 3.5 lakh unqualified non-medical persons to practice modern medicine. The term community health provider has been vaguely defined to allow anyone connected with modern medicine to get registered in NMC and be licensed to practice modern medicine.

“This will only legalise quackery and endanger the lives of people,” R V Ashokan, IMA secretary general, said.

On Tuesday, representatives of FORDA and AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association held an emergency meeting to decide the course of action against the “undemocratic and non-federal” bill. They said they agreed to oppose the bill in its current form.

They demanded that the government incorporate certain amendments in the interest of people, and said if not amended, the bill will lead to deterioration of medical education and degradation of healthcare services.

Besides other clauses, they objected to Section 45 of the bill which, they claimed, empowers the Union government to override any suggestion by the National Medical Commission.

“The autonomy and pride of entire medical fraternity has been surrendered to the whims and fancy of politicians and bureaucrats even as the Union health minister is a doctor himself,” AIIMS RDA president Amarinder Singh Malhi and president of Students’ Union Mukul Kumar said in a joint statement.

“Government of India can also make any directions to NMC and autonomous boards constituted there-under regarding any policy matter to be followed religiously without any argument by the commission. This is the mockery of representative democracy,” they said.

“We still hope that necessary amendments will be made in the bill before being passed in Rajya Sabha,” they said.

The IMA is also opposing other provisions in the bill, including the decision to introduce NEXT and scrapping NEET-PG and regulation of fees by the NMC for 50 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities.

The clause to fix fee of private medical colleges, capped at 50 per cent of the seats, has been further diluted to framing guidelines only, IMA junior doctor’s network vice-president Harjit Bhatti said.

“The NMC bill is a pro-private management bill and will pave the way for widespread corruption,” Bhatti said.

The NMC bill proposes a common final year MBBS examination, to be known as National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining license to practice medicine.

It would also act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates, official sources said.

Besides, the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and the NEXT will be applicable to institutes of national importance like AIIMS in order to achieve a common standard in medical education sector in the country.

Under Section 32 of the NMC Act, 2019, which talks about the role of the community health provider, it states, “The commission may grant limited license to practice medicine at mid-level as a community health provider to such person connected with modern scientific medical profession who qualify such criteria as specified by the regulations: provided that the limited license to be granted under this sub-section shall not exceed more than one-third of the total number of licensed medical practitioners registered under sub-section (1) of section 31.”

Section 31 of the Act pertains to maintaining a national register of all the recognised medical practitioners by the Ethics and Medical Registration Board.

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