Government plans fresh legislation to rein in MCI

Government plans fresh legislation to rein in MCI

As the rift between the Health Ministry and Medical Council of India (MCI) increases, the government plans to come up with a new law to rein in the council, which regulates the cash-rich medical education sector.

The proposed law will be a modified version of the National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH) Bill, 2011, which was discarded by Parliament in its original form, reliable sources in the Health Ministry told Deccan Herald.

Still on the drawing board, the new law will do away with several contentious proposals in the NCHRH Bill, like abolition and disempowerment of state medical councils, and strong government involvement in the entire spectrum of medical education.

“We are taking into account all the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health that rejected the bill in October 2012,” said an official.

During the entire NCHRH Bill process, a Central government-appointed Board of Governors ran the regulatory council. But as a team of doctors headed by Jayshreeben Mehta took charge of the MCI, the conflict with the Health ministry increased.

The chasm is so deep now that the council opposed in the ministry in the Supreme Court earlier this month in a case pertaining to the increase of seats in medical colleges.

At the beginning of the admission procedure, the MCI did not give permission for several thousand new seats in medical colleges—both government and private—citing deficiencies, a move the ministry described as “frivolous”.

Because of the pressure from the ministry, the MCI finally approved 2,750 seats in government colleges, but turned down the applications for renewal of 3,920 seats, mostly in private colleges. The net deficit in the number of seats is 1,170, and out of the 46 colleges affected, as many as 41 are privately owned.

The new law seeks to remove the skewed distribution of medical colleges, as close to 400 districts do not have one. Because of the shortage in the number of medical seats, there is the practice of paying high capitation fee in private colleges which, experts say, is the root cause of corruption in healthcare in India.

“Endemic corruption extends to medical studies themselves. Students have to pay very large 'donations' (perhaps $200,000 or more, some 20 times the average doctor’s annual salary) to get into the rapidly increasing number of private medical colleges and sought-after postgraduate training schemes,” Australian doctor David Berger wrote recently in the “British Medical Journal”.