We have all been following the news and updates about the much-debated National Medical Commission for the last few weeks. A lot has been said about the Bill and its features, but many still have the big question –
Why is the NMC Act required when we already have the Medical Council of India?
Why was NMC Introduced?
a. Corruption Charges
So the story began back in 2001 when the then President of Medical Council of India, Ketan Desai was accused on account of corruption. There were other allegations also made against the Council for not holding accountability in matters that concerned the medical regulatory system of India. After the allegations against Ketan Desai, a local court had asked him to step down and leave his position. However, what happened next was that his influential position and contacts in the country helped him get re-elected in 2009-2010! Not only that; despite facing more charges later, Desai was also elected into the World Medical Council.
b.Autonomy in the Council
The MCI had a team of 104 members of which only 8 were to be nominated by the Centre. However, MCI followed its norms and maintained complete autonomy in its membership with all 104 members being doctors and none of the required 8 nominated members. The Council thus in its lack of holding accountability showed rare instances of revoking licenses of practitioners having been accused of indulging in negligence and malpractices over the years.
This led to the introduction of the concept of the National Medical Commission to bring standard and quality into the Indian medical education system. https://www.youtube.com/embed/jrmeMabxvBc
How Will the NMC Aim to the Flaws?
The Bill has said that the NMC will only have 25 members of which 60% will be doctors. Moreover, as per the clauses, no person holding a position in the office will be eligible for automatic re-election (unless waivered by concerning authorities). In addition, the Bill states that the Commission will be required to meet every quarter to discuss progress and recommendations to keep the improvement of the Indian education industry in momentum. Thus, the clauses of the Bill aim to bring down ‘permanency’ in official positions with added guidelines for regulated meetings and discussions.
In 2018, the Bill had spoken of introducing a Bridge course to help AAYUSH doctors become eligible to practice medicine in the country. However, the proposition was met with great resentment from the medical officials and organizations in the country who claimed that it would lead to increased cases of malpractices by those who didn’t have the exact knowledge of the science. The Bill was then amended to add a provision for including relevant educational courses during AAYUSH training to help the said doctors become eligible for a limited license to practice modern medicine as Community Healthcare Providers. There is still a great deal of disagreement in the medical fraternity in the country regarding this provision. There is a fear of it promoting quackery.
The National Exit Test is another part introduced in the Bill that has ruffled some feathers. However, this is being seen with some positivity as many believe that the Test would ensure that those who get a license to practice in India (whether national graduates or foreign medical graduates) will all be tested on the same level to maintain a standard of required skill-set across the nation. However, how the Commission will manage to get the curriculum and teaching structure across the nation and otherwise on the same page is yet to be seen.
Regulated Fees but What About Us, Ask Doctors
The medical professionals in the country have also raised objections on no provision being made in the Bill for the working conditions, salaries, stipends, or rewards for the doctors when the fees of 50% seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities will be controlled and regulated by the government. Thus, there is no clarity on how the regulation will affect the earning capacity and working conditions of the faculty and practitioners.
After getting the go-ahead from President Ram Nath Kovind on August 8, 2019, the Bill has been made into an Act. However, Union Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan said the Act will be implemented across the nation in the next three years. While the Bill has proposed many revolutionary changes for the Indian medical education system, how it all comes together to maintain its legitimacy in the country as a standard-setting and regulating authority, is yet to be seen.