IMA calls protest against bills relating health sector

IMA calls protest against bills relating health sector

The protest has been called against the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, the Indian Medical Council (amendments) Bill, 2018, and the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018.

The Indian Medical Association has called a nation-wide protest on Friday against three bills in Parliament, which it said, would "change the profile" of the medical profession and healthcare sector in India.

The protest has been called against the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, the Indian Medical Council (amendments) Bill, 2018, and the Consumer Protection Bill, 2018.

The health body assured that medical services will not be affected by its protest.

"The three bills have the potential to change the profile of the medical profession and healthcare in India. It is bound to affect patients at large.

"The All India Protest Day on January 4 by the IMA is to invite the attention of Parliament and the nation," national president, IMA, Santanu Sen, said.

Local and state branches of the IMA have been asked to observe the day to protest against the bills.

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill is "anti-poor, anti-people and anti-federal". If it is allowed to pass it will have "unforeseen consequences" not only on the healthcare sector but also on the federal structure of the country, Sen claimed.

The bill, which aims to overhaul medical education in the country, will give all authority to the government of India. If adopted, it would repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, he said.

It proposes that fee for 50 per cent seats in medical colleges will be regulated by the government.

The reservation of medical seats, up to 50 per cent, for management is a denial of equitable opportunities and is certainly anti-people and pro-rich, Sen said.

Currently, several states have a fee-fixing committee, but after implementation of the NMC Bill, they would lose their power to regulate fee, the IMA official said.

"The NMC bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health which had recommended 24 amendments unanimously. The government accepted one recommendation and some in a partial manner.

"The NMC bill still remains anti-people, pro-rich, anti-democratic and anti-federal. The IMA is determined to resist and oppose it at all costs," Sen said.

R V Asokan, secretary general, IMA, said if the Consumer Protection Bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha on December 20, comes into force, it will lead to an increase in litigations and also cause a substantial increase in treatment cost, making healthcare unaffordable and inaccessible to weaker sections of society.

The Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is being repealed and replaced by the bill, which enforces consumer rights.

The Act of 1986 did not envisage to include the medical profession. The medical profession was later brought under the purview of the Act in 1994 by a verdict of the Supreme Court, he said.

Many concerns were placed by the IMA in the draft bill in 2015 and were put in the public domain, but they have not been addressed in the recently passed Consumer Protection Bill, Asokan said.

"This legislation will cause substantial increase in treatment cost, make health care unaffordable and inaccessible to weaker sections of the society.

"The government, which on one hand is concerned about the catastrophic healthcare cost, on the other hand is indirectly changing the rules," he said.

It has to be realised that such moves hit people directly. Besides adversely impacting small and medium hospitals, small entrepreneurs will also be affected, Asokan said.

The IMA demands capping of compensation for medical negligence cases. Unreasonably high compensations will give rise to more frivolous litigations and promote defensive medicine. Litigations by organisations or associations are generally vindictive in nature, he claimed.

"It will be a bad precedence to allow such a practice. Moreover, peer expert opinion has to be mandatory before taking up a case of medical negligence by the consumer forum," Sen said.

The IMA also opposed the IMC (Amendments) Bill 2018 which was recently passed in the Lok Sabha.

The health body also expressed strong reservations in the way that an elected Medical Council of India (MCI) was superseded for no credible reason.

Undue haste was shown to proclaim an ordinance creating a nominated board of governors while the election process was underway, it claimed.

The MCI represents the plurality of opinion from a multitude of institutions in our federal nation. It is "preposterous" to install a group of nominated board of governors who will never be able to fulfil the aspirations of the institute, Asokan said.

All IMA members will wear black badges on Friday and will also hand over memorandums to all MPs in their constituencies. All medical services will function normally.