Non-emergency services suspended to protest move allowing Ayurveda doctors to perform surgeries
Non-emergency services in most hospitals did not function on Friday as the Indian Medical Association (IMA) had given a call for a day-long strike to protest against the Centre’s decision to allow post-graduates from Ayurveda to perform general surgeries in select streams, leading to patients being turned away from hospitals in several parts of the country, according to doctor associations and hospital authorities.
On November 20, the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), a statutory body under the AYUSH ministry, issued a notification to regulate Indian systems of medicines and listed 39 general and 19 other surgery procedures involving eye, ear, nose and throat by amending the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurveda Education) Regulations, 2016.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of modern medicine doctors, condemned the move, describing it as poaching the disciplines of modern medicine through backdoor means and a retrograde step of mixing the system. Several other bodies supported the IMA and demanded to withdraw the order asking the CCIM to develop their own surgical disciplines from their ancient texts and not claim the surgical disciplines of modern medicine as their own.
In a clarification, AYUSH Ministry Secretary Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha said it does not amount to any policy deviation or any new decision. “This notification is more of the nature of a clarification. It streamlines the existing regulation relating to postgraduate education in Ayurveda with respect to the specified procedures,” he had said in a clarification issued by Press Information Bureau on November 22. The government has maintained that these surgeries were allowed earlier also but now the council has clarified them through a notification.
The IMA on Wednesday gave a call for a strike to protest against the government mixing the two systems of medicine and “unscientific” ways of treating people through backdoor. The IMA had said that only Covid or other essential medical interventions such as casualty, labour rooms and emergency surgeries, will be attended by the doctors. Other services were suspended for 12 hours.
Impact of the strike could be seen in several states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, where the non-emergency services remained suspended since Friday morning. The doctors also held protests at several places against the decision.
IMA Punjab general secretary Dr Paramjit Singh Mann described the notification as “a step to legitimise mixopathy”. He said allopathic doctors are fighting to “save the honour of the noble profession”.
“We have nearly 9,000 doctors as IMA members who have announced to suspend work in protest. Ayurvedic practitioners are not educated to perform modern medicine then how can they be allowed to work in that way. We want the Union government to withdraw the amendment,” said Dr Mann.
Dr Satyajit Borah, president of Assam unit of IMA, said, “Doctors across government and private hospitals have supported our call. Ayurvedic doctors performing surgeries could lead to serious complications in patients. We hope the public becomes aware of this and the government doesn’t implement the move.” IMA secretary for Rajasthan, Dr Kewal Krishna Dung, said the government should not allow Ayurveda doctors to conduct surgeries without knowledge of the allopathic protocol for conducting surgeries.
In Kerala, where no out-patient services were provided, patients could be seen engaged in wordy duels with medical workers. Many were caught unaware of the strike. “We are doing it for the larger interest of patients and the profession. We have no intention to trouble patients. But if we keep quiet, they will be in trouble tomorrow,” said Indian Medical Association Kerala chapter secretary Dr O Gopakumar.
At several places, the Ayurveda doctors performed surgeries for 12 hours instead of normal eight to support the government decision. Dr Nityanand, Rajasthan secretary of Vishwa Ayurved Parishad, said that nearly 6,000 Ayurved doctors worked overtime today to support government decision of allowing Ayurveda doctors for surgeries in the state. “Allopathy arrived in India in last 50 years but Ayurveda has ancient roots in which surgery existed from time immemorial. Ayurveda doctors welcome government decision,” he said.