As doctors in Delhi oppose NMC bill, hospital services could be hit
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Medical services in Delhi are likely to be affected Thursday with resident doctors from several government hospitals, including AIIMS, RML, Safdarjung and Lok Nayak, threatening to go on an indefinite strike, including withdrawal of services at emergency departments, to protest against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill. The bill, which seeks to replace the graft-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI), is slated to be tabled in Rajya Sabha Thursday.
The bill proposes a common final-year MBBS examination, to be known as the National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to postgraduate medical courses and for obtaining a licence to practise medicine. Besides, the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the 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 across the country.
On Monday, the Lok Sabha passed the bill amid an ongoing protest from the medical fraternity across the country. The bill provides for the setting up of a National Medical Commission in place of the MCI for development and regulation of all aspects of medical education, profession and institutions.
“The decision has been taken in haste. We have been requesting the Health Minister to reconsider the decision to bring the NMC bill. On Thursday, we will refrain from working in the OPDs, emergency departments and ICUs as a mark of protest and the strike will continue for an indefinite period if the bill is tabled and passed in the Rajya Sabha,” said Dr Sumedh Sandanshiv, president, Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA), who alleged that the bill was “anti-poor, anti-student and undemocratic”.
Medical practitioners across the country are demanding certain amendments in the bill. According to them, if not amended, the bill will lead to deterioration of medical education and degradation of healthcare services in the country. Besides other clauses, they are objecting to section 45 of the bill which, they claim, empowers the Union government to override any suggestion of the National Medical Commission.
“The provisions of the said bill are nothing short of draconian and promote gross incompetence and mockery of the professionals currently working day and night and sacrificing their youth for this broken system. If it is tabled in its current form in Rajya Sabha without any amendments, the medical fraternity across the country will be forced to resort to extreme measures, which may hamper healthcare services nationwide,” the AIIMS RDA, the FORDA and the United-RDA said in a joint statement.
Hospital administrations have made some makeshift arrangements to ensure no patient is affected. “OPD services will function on a restricted basis. Only patients having prior appointment will be registered in the morning OPDs. No walk-in registration for OPD patients (new and old) will be done. Routine surgeries will be taken up as per feasibility,” stated the AIIMS administration.
The medical fraternity is also anguished as it believes that the Union health minister, a medical practitioner himself, instead of including key recommendations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, replaced many provisions in the bill with clauses “detrimental” to doctors.
The fraternity claims that the bill will encourage quackery.
“The IMA had rejected the bill. Section 32 of the NMC Bill provides for licensing of 3.5 lakh unqualified non-medical persons to practise modern medicine. The term community health provider has been vaguely defined to allow anyone connected with modern medicine to get registered in the NMC and be licensed to practise modern medicine. This will only legalise quackery and endanger the lives of people,” IMA secretary general R V Ashokan said.