AIIMS doctors call off strike after meeting with Union health minister
Resident doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) called off their strike with immediate effect on Sunday following a meeting with Union health minister Harsh Vardhan.
The health minister assured the protesting doctors that all their apprehensions about the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019, be it related to the National Exit Test (NEXT) or training of staff to practice medicine at the mid-level as community health providers will be addressed while drafting the regulations.
The doctors conveyed to the AIIMS director Dr Randeep Guleria that they were withdrawing the strike provided past three days were considered on-duty for the striking doctors.
“... conveyed the decision of withdrawing of the strike and resuming of all services... with immediate effect provided the AIIMS administration clarifies in writing that the strike period be considered as on-duty as assured by the health minister...,” the doctors’ association said in a statement.
“If the bill cannot be amended in the present situation, it was also requested that as per Section 4 (3) (g) Director AIIMS, New Delhi, should be made Ex-Officio member of the NMC at least in its first term,” ANI quoted the doctors’ body as saying.
Over 20,000 resident doctors in government hospitals and colleges in Delhi had been on strike since August 1, the day the Rajya Sabha passed the NMC Bill with amendments.
All non-essential hospital services such as out patient departments (OPDs) were shut. Even in the emergency department only critical cases were being taken up, causing severe inconvenience to patients.
“...I met RDA representatives of AIIMS and Safdarjung and tried to clarify their misconceptions against the NMC Bill. I strongly believe that the striking doctors will call off their strike keeping in mind the inconvenience being caused to patients and in the larger interest of the nation,” Harsh Vardhan had tweeted after his meeting with the representatives.
While the government has hailed the Bill, which is meant to replace graft-tainted Medical Council of India (MCI), as “revolutionary” and a “watershed in the field of medical regulation”, doctors from bodies such as Indian Medical Association (IMA) and resident doctors across the country found some of its clauses contentious.
One of the main contentions against the Bill is that it proposes a common exam - National Exit Test (NEXT)- which could be treated as the final year exam for the undergraduate course, as the licentiate exam for a career in medicine, and also as the entrance exam for post graduate courses in the country. It will also be used to screen students graduating from foreign countries. One exam for three totally different purposes could be unfairly judging doctors, they said.
The other concern raised against the Bill is that it allows “limited access to practice medicine” for people connected with modern scientific medicine such as mid-level community health providers. Medical students feel that this will give rise to quackery.
“The fear is baseless as there has been a practice even in developed countries to build a cadre of community health workers at the mid-level to provide basic healthcare that is working successfully,” said Harsh Vardhan.
Doctors of Safdarjung Hospital, another major hospital, will continue their protest. “We will make our decision tomorrow (Monday) at the GBM, which will be attended among others by the RDA representatives,” Prakash Thakur, president, RDA at Safdarjung Hospital, told ANI.