Medical emergency: Indian Medical Association objects to draft NMC bill

Updated: Dec 21, 2017, 12:23 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Indian Medical Association says the draft National Medical Commission Bill will make the medical profession answerable to the bureaucracy, and also allow room for corruption

The Union Cabinet recently rendered another blow to the medical profession with the approval of the draft National Medical Commission Bill, 2017. The NMC will "cripple" the democratic functioning of the medical profession by making it completely answerable to the bureaucracy, says the Indian Medical Association (IMA). Speaking to mid-day, Dr K K Agarwal, National President, IMA said, "We have already written to the Prime Minister and will also meet Members of Parliament expressing our objections to the draft National Medical Commission Bill, which raises serious concerns about the government's intent to have control over not only medical professionals, but also medical institutions, across the country. This will give room to more corruption."

Dr K K Agarwal, National President, IMA says the draft NMC bill raises serious concerns about the government’s intent to have control over not only medical professionals, but also medical institutions, across the country. Pic/Thinkstock
Dr K K Agarwal, National President, IMA says the draft NMC bill raises serious concerns about the government's intent to have control over not only medical professionals, but also medical institutions, across the country. Pic/Thinkstock

Agarwal further added that the Medical Council of India, which is a quasi-judicial body, has over 150 members, all from the medical profession, whereas the NMC will have only 25 members, of whom 20 will be appointed by the government and be selected from different fields like management, law, medical ethics, health research, consumer or patient rights advocacy, science and technology, and economics. Only five will be elected by registered medical practitioners from amongst themselves from regional constituencies, which is unfair.

When asked if IMA was approached by the union government before drafting the NMC bill, Dr R N Tandon, Secretary General IMA replied in the negative and said, "The NMC bill, if approved, will have an adverse impact on the medical education system in the country, especially with the government stating that 40 per cent of the fees control will belong to it and the management will get the remaining 60 percent."

"It is time that the powers-that-be take urgent notice of this crisis and act accordingly. The medical profession is currently facing its darkest hour. Not only are patients slowly losing faith in doctors and the profession as such, but are also becoming violent against doctors at the slightest provocation. This bill is only an addition to these existing woes and will exacerbate the situation for the medical fraternity and students of medicine," said an IMA member. Some of the observations on the National Medical Commission Bill 2017, by Dr KK Agarwal, President of the Indian Medical Association.

1. Composition of the National Medical Commission
It will have an effective membership of 25 alongwith the chairman, of whom only five members will be elected (Part-time members who will be elected by the registered medical practitioners from among themselves from regional constituencies). Dr Agarwal pointed out that the composition of the various autonomous boards prescribed under the Bill does not include any elected member. As such, the relevance of elected members vis-a-vis their authority and jurisdiction is a big question mark left unanswered.

2. Separate National Register
Under section 31(8) the EMR Board shall maintain a separate National Register including the names of licensed Ayush practitioners who qualify for the bridge course. An Ayush practitioner has been defined as a person who is a practitioner of homeopathy or a practitioner of Indian medicine as defined in the Indian Medicine Central Council Act, 1970. Section 49(4) contemplates bridge courses even for the practitioners of homeopathy to enable them to prescribe modern medicines. Dr Agarwal said this is materially inconsistent with the definition of the word 'medicine' as depicted in section 2(j) wherein it is defined as 'medicine means modern scientific medicine in all its branches and includes surgery and obstetrics but does not include veterinary medicine and surgery'. These provisions could allow backdoor entry into the medical profession, he said.

3. Composition of Autonomous Board
Section 17(1) of the proposed Act stipulates that each autonomous board shall consist of a President and two members. The composition does not provide for inclusion of any elected member therein, which goes to indicate that the membership of the said boards will be totally appointed / nominated without any representation of an elected member, and thus they will not have any representative as is desired and warranted.

4. Permission to practice without qualifying for the National Licenciate Examination
A provision to Section 33(1)(d) stipulates that 'the commission may permit a medical professional to perform surgery or practice medicine without qualifying for the National Licenciate Examination.' This operationally means that without ascertaining the required levels and certification, the commission will be permitting people to practice surgery. This is nothing less than legalising quackery in an operational sense, feels Dr Agarwal.

5. Removal of embargo on foreign citizens practicing in India
Dr Agarwal said an uninhibited permission to practice medicine by a foreign citizen without any reasonable restrictions is harbouring intrinsic dangers in itself.

5 No. of members of the 25-members NMC, who will be elected medical practitioners

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