Panel rejects bill on health

Panel rejects bill on health

Plan to set up regulatory body for medical education hits roadblock

The Centre’s ambitious plan to have an umbrella regulatory body for medical and para-medical education hit a roadblock as the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health rejected the National Commission for Human Resources for Health Bill, 2011, which provided for a regulatory mechanism.

The panel in its report, submitted to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari on Tuesday, urged the health ministry to withdraw the bill and introduce a fresh one after addressing all opposing points raised by various stakeholders, including state governments.

“As serious apprehensions were raised on various provisions of the bill, the committee felt that the bill in its present form cannot be taken forward. The committee decided not to go in for clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill and to recommend to the government to consider all shades of opinion and bring a revised bill before Parliament,” says the report, a copy of which is available with Deccan Herald.

Introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December last, the NCHRH bill aimed at regulating professional councils such as Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India, Pharmacy Council of India and Indian Nursing Council.

The bill's rejection comes as a major embarrassment to the health ministry, which sought and received special permission from Parliament last year to extend the tenure of the MCI board of governors (BoG) by two years. The current board's tenure ends in May 2013.

Following the arrest of previous MCI president Ketan Desai by the Central Bureau of Investigation on corruption charges, the health ministry dissolved the MCI and created a BoG to run the council for a temporary period till the NCHRH comes into effect.

Congress effect

The concept of having an over-arching regulatory body for the cash-rich medical education sector was mooted for the first time in the Presidential address in 2009 after the Congress-led UPA II government came to power at the Centre.

As the future of NCHRH looks bleak at the moment, the health ministry may have little option but to revive the MCI after May next year. Such a proposal, sources said, was making rounds in the health ministry.

The tenure of the BoG, headed by K K Talwar, former director of Post Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, is unlikely to be further extended as the government had told Opposition parties that only a year’s extension of the board's tenure was sufficient to establish the NCHRH.

The House panel also suggested incorporating medical research (basically Indian Council of Medical Research) in revised NCHRH bill, which in its original form focused on medical education councils.

The Centre's move to dissolve the MCI has drawn flak in the first place. One of the key objections from the 31-member House panel was to the little representation to the states in the NCHRH though “health” is a state subject and “medical education” came under concurrent list.

The House panel recommended strengthening councils like the MCI and DCI with sufficient safeguards instead of creating an over-arching regulatory body.