IMA strike over medical bill may affect OPD services today
Government-run health facilities in several parts of the country are likely to be disrupted on Wednesday after doctors’ associations called for a strike against the new National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.
The strike was called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and supported by doctors in at least two key hospitals -- PGI Chandigarh and Delhi government-run Lok Nayak Hospital – although junior doctors in several other hospitals say they will show their protest by wearing black bands.
The representatives of the federation of resident doctors association (FORDA) and resident doctors association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, held a meeting on Monday night and “decided to vehemently oppose the bill in its present form”.
Watch: RS passes National Medical Commission Bill, medical fraternity on warpath
The NMC bill sets out to regulate medical education in the country.
Both groups opposing the bill say it is “undemocratic and non federal” in nature and must be amended in the “best interests of the people of this country relying upon the state-run healthcare facilities”.
“This bill if not amended will not only lead to the deterioration of the standards of medical education but will also lead to degradation of healthcare services,” said Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA), AIIMS in a statement issued on Tuesday morning.
The key contention against the bill is that it proposes a common exam — National Exit Test (NEXT) —as the final year exam for the undergraduate course, a licentiate exam for a career in medicine, as an entrance test for postgraduate courses, and a screening test for students graduating from foreign countries.
“How can one single exam decide all three? What if a candidate fails to take the test; then that person is left with no option,” said Dr RV Asokan, secretary-general, Indian Medical Association (IMA).
Certain clauses in the bill also threaten the autonomy of the NMC, said doctors. “Section 45 of the bill allows the Central government to override any recommendations or suggestions by the NMC. The Central government can also give directions to the NMC and the autonomous boards regarding policy matters. This essentially means the autonomy of the body and the whole profession would surrender to the whims and fancies of politicians and bureaucrats,” said Dr Amrinder Singh Malhi, president of the resident doctors’ association of AIIMS.
Section 45 states that the NMC and the autonomous boards would be bound by the policy directions of the Central government, but they will be given an opportunity to express their views as far as possible.
The doctors are also concerned about the reduction in the number of elected representatives from 75% in the Medical Council of India to 20% in NMC.
Delhi’s state medical council too has criticised the bill. “In deciding cases of medical negligence, Section 30 says that the state medical councils have to follow the guidelines framed under the bill. This goes against the federal structure of our country. State medical councils have their own Acts and methods to deal with such cases,” said Dr Arun Gupta, president of the Delhi Medical Council.
Fee regulation for about 50% of seats is also being resisted. “It will promote corruption in the long run. Why only 50% seats should be regulated in private medical colleges and deemed universities when earlier it was 85% by the state government. The clause lacks clarity and the health minister should have explained it properly,” said Asokan.