NMC Bill Passed In Rajya Sabha – Landmark Reform or Lip Service?

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019 has been approved in Rajya Sabha. It is now on the verge of replacing the decades-old Indian Medical Council Act, 1956.

Touted as a landmark reform, the bill was widely protested by the medical fraternity with the Indian Medical Association conducting nationwide protest on 31st July which continued till yesterday. Doctors also showed their agitation through other forms of protests such as hunger strike in a few states, wearing black badges at work, boycotting classes and more.

Highlights of the NMC Bill 2019:

  • National Medical Commission will include 25 members selected by the Central Govt on the recommendation of a search committee including Cabinet Secretary and 5 other experts nominated by the Centre.
  • NEXT (National Exit Test) – common final year medical exam, will be mandatory for receiving medical licenses, admission to post-graduate courses and for foreign medical graduates to practice in India
  • Regulation of fees for 50% of the total seats in Private Medical Colleges and Deemed Universities
  • MARB (Medical Assessment and Rating Board) to sanction the opening of new colleges, adding postgraduate courses and seats
  • End of ‘inspector raj’, MARB can hire any 3rd party agency/persons for inspection of medical colleges

Major Concerns:

  • Unprecedented power to Centre, State representation limited to Advisory Council
  • Section 45 of the bill empowers Centre to override any suggestion of NMC
  • Non-doctors will take major decisions related to medical education in India
  • Private medical colleges will get free reign and corruption will increase, poor students will be adversely affected
  • Independence of premier medical institutions like AIIMS, JIPMER and PGI will be compromised as all admissions will be based on NEET
  • Section 32 of the bill allows about 2.5 lac Community Health Providers to prescribe drugs to patients.

The last point is the biggest concern of the medical community as they feel it will leave patients at the mercy of quacks. Who qualifies as a Community Health Provider is currently ambiguous.

Although an open reference to a bridge course for AYUSH doctors has been removed, the bill provides for an ‘interface’ between systems of medicine through an annual sitting of NMC with Central Council of Homeopathy and Central Council of Indian Medicine. These sittings may culminate in the introduction of specific educational modules to promote ‘medical pluralism‘.

What the NMC Bill 2019 Has Missed:

  • No stipulation for re-registration or re-accreditation of doctors every few years
  • No provision to regulate salary/stipend/working conditions of faculty and resident doctors

The bill, which has been passed with two amendments (higher representation from state medical councils and vice-chancellors of medical universities on the NMC), will be sent to Lok Sabha again for approval. IMA doctors are expected to intensify their protests following this development.

Do you think the NMC bill 2019 will overhaul medical education in India?

Source: Times of India, Livemint

 


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