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National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill faces rough weather

By InnoHEALTH Editorial Team

The Government has approved a slew of amendments to the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill. According to the official sources, these Amendments to the NMC Bill come in the backdrop of its consideration in Lok Sabha and subsequently being referred to the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee (DRPSC). The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has approved these changes.

The Government has considered the recommendations made by the Standing Committee in its report tabled in the House on 20th March 2018 and general feedback, particularly the views of medical students and practitioners regarding certain provisions of the Bill.

Having considered the common demand by the students not to subject them to an additional licentiate exam for getting license to practice, the Cabinet has approved that the final MBBS examination would be held as a common exam throughout the country and would serve as an exit test to be called the National Exit Test (NEXT). Thus, the students would not have to appear in a separate exam after MBBS to get license to practice. NEXT would also serve as the screening test for doctors with foreign medical qualifications to practice in India.

Provision of Bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to practice modern medicine removed: the provision dealing with bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to practice modern medicine to a limited extent has also been removed. It has been left to the state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary health care in rural areas.

Fee regulation for 50% seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities: the maximum limit of 40% seats for which fee would be regulated in private medical institutions and deemed universities has been increased to 50% seats. Further, it has been clarified that the fee would also include all other charges taken by the colleges.

Number of nominees from States and UTs in NMC increased from 3 to 6: responding to the demands from states to increase their representation in the NMC, the nominees of States and UTs in the NMC have been increased from 3 to 6. The NMC will comprise of 25 members of which atleast 21 will be doctors. Monetary penalty for a medical college non-compliant with the norms replaced with provision for different penalty options.

Another major concern gathered during discussion with stakeholders was the wide range of monetary penalty, ranging from one half to ten times the annual fee recovered from a batch, to be imposed in a graded manner on a medical college non-compliant with the norms. The clause has been replaced with a provision which provides different options for warning, reasonable monetary penalty, reducing intake, stoppage of admission leading up to withdrawal of recognition. Stringent punishment for unqualified medical practitioners or quacks: the government is concerned about the quality and safety of health care being made available to the citizens and the need to act strictly against unqualified practitioners or quacks. The punishment for any unauthorized practice of medicine has been made severe by including a provision for imprisonment of up to one year along with a fine extending up to Rs. 5 lakhs.

On the other hand, country’s apex body of doctors Indian Medical Association (IMA), which has been on a nationwide march from 25th February 2018 to deprecate the current form of the NMC Bill, protested in Delhi in the last week of March 2018 and held Mahapanchayat at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium.

The IMA has strongly opposed the draft Bill that seeks to replace the Medical Council of India with a new body, claiming it will cripple the medical profession. "The bill, which has the potential to adversely alter the course of medical education and healthcare delivery in India, will also make irrevocable damage if passed in its current form," IMA's General Secretary Dr. R N Tandon had said. IMA’s National President, Dr. Ravi Wankhedkar had said, vehemently opposing the commission, IMA has organized a march across India.

Informatively, IMA, a selfregulating body run by doctors, has over 1,725 local branches across the country and has held simultaneous yatras across the country to generate awareness among masses. Earlier this month, the IMA had organized a cycle rally across India with an aim to sensitize the masses about the issue. According to the Bill, the government can fix the fee for only 40 percent of the seats in private medical colleges.

"As the remaining 60 percent of seats does not come under the guidelines, the colleges shall be charging the higher fee. This clause is paradoxical in nature and makes it pro-rich reservation system," Dr. Tandon had said.

"If functional, this means that the present ratio of 15 percent allotted to private and deemed universities for charging high fees stands augmented to the entire 60 percent which itself is a real travesty of its kind," he added. The IMA is also opposing the clause in the bill which calls for allowing practitioners of traditional medicine system to pursue modern medicine.