Revisiting medical panel bill welcome

Revisiting medical panel bill welcome

 

The government's decision to get the National Medical Commission bill, 2017 re-examined by a panel of lawmakers is a welcome step because of the contentious nature of the bill that seeks to replace the Medical Council of India. Over the years, MCI failed in its duties to regulate the medical education sector in an honest and transparent manner, leading to a huge inequity in healthcare. The Prime Minister's Office was repeatedly requested by doctors, lawmakers, state governments and experts either to overhaul the MCI or replace it with a new agency. While the Centre's intention to replace the MCI with a new outfit is timely, the question is whether the NMC in its present avatar is the right solution.  

 

As per the proposed structure, the commission will regulate through four autonomous boards to take care of undergraduate and postgraduate education, medical college infrastructure, and maintaining the doctor's register and to keep an eye on ethics in healthcare. While there won't be any annual inspection of new medical colleges, the bill proposes an exit examination to check whether students passing out from these colleges have indeed received a minimum level of education to qualify as practising doctors. The most contentious clause, however, is to permit ayurvedic and homoeopathic doctors to prescribe modern medicine after a bridge course. The underlying objective probably is to fill up more than 1.55 lakh sub-centres and 25,000 plus primary healthcare centres with someone with basic medical knowledge to look after people's primary health needs, run the government programmes and identify the complicated cases for referral. It is said to gel well with the government's plan to turn the primary health centres into wellness centres. The lawmakers will have to determine if it is a desirable move and if it would dilute the value of the MBBS degree. Scientifically while the ayurvedic system can coexist with modern medicine to some extent, inclusion of homoeopathy in the same bracket is worrisome because the fundamentals of homoeopathy are completely against modern science. The MPs should also examine other options like empowering the nurses with better medical knowledge or creation of a separate cadre of community health workers to take care of the health needs of rural India rather than giving a backdoor entry to an ayurvedic specialist or a homoeopath to modern medicine.

 

Opposition from the Indian Medical Association was predictable and may continue if the government presses ahead with the legislation. The doctor's body claims self-regulation as the cure for the ills, but does precise little to punish the guilty and stem the rising healthcare cost. An honest regulator is required no doubt, but the draft law definitely needs a revisit.

 

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