In light of the government’s indifference to India’s healthcare and medical education by passing the National Medical Commission Bill (NMC) 2019, the Indian Medical Association has called for a 24-hour strike on Wednesday.
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The Lok Sabha gave passage to the NMC, with 260 members favoring it and 48 otherwise, that gives way to National Medical Commission to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI). The Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan applauded the Modi-government’s initiative saying the “anti-vested interests Bill” will be remembered as one of the greatest reforms.
Under the Bill, the common final year MBBS exam will now be called the National Exit Test (NEXT). This would serve as a licentiate exam for entrance to post-graduate medical courses, as well as a screening test for foreign medical graduates. Furthermore, the Bill states that the Medical Assessment and Rating Board (MARB) will conduct an assessment of medical colleges and develop a system of ranking them which would enable students to choose medical colleges wisely.
But the IMA has pointed out that the NMC Bill provides for licensing of “3.5 lakhs unqualified non-medical persons to practice modern medicine”. In a statement, the Association said the term Community Health Provider has been vaguely defined to allow anyone connected with modern medicine to get registered in NMC and be licensed to practice modern medicine. “This would mean that all paramedics including pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, optometrists and others are becoming eligible to practice modern medicine and prescribe independently,” it said. The Associate stated that the “new law legalizes quackery”.
According to PRS Legislative Research, a non-profit organization, the Bill seeks to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act 1956 and provide for a medical education system that would bring about the availability of adequate and high-quality medical professionals. The research body said the new bill would adopt the latest medical research by medical professionals, periodic assessment of medical institutions and introduce and effective grievance redressal mechanism.
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However, Dr. Santanu Sen, the National President of IMA has called for a protest march, ‘Delhi Andolan’, saying the government will have blood on its hands if Section 32 of the NMC Bill 2019 is not removed. IMA National President-elect Dr, Rajan Sharma said if Section 32 is not removed than 3.5 lakh community health providers will be legalized to prescribe drugs.