Lok Sabha sends national medical commission bill to parliamentary committee

Lok Sabha sends national medical commission bill to parliamentary committee

The Lok Sabha sent the National Medical Commission Bill to the Parliamentary standing committee on health for consideration and the panel’s report is expected before the budget session.The bill, which is aimed at development and regulation of all aspects related to medical education, medical profession and medical institutions, will replace the much-criticised Medical Council of India with a new commission to ensure transparency and reform.

The National Medical Commission Bill, 2017, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 29 and was expected to be debated on Tuesday.It spurred a nationwide protest by a doctor’s body that led to several private hospitals shutting down their outpatient departments.

The Indian Medical Association, a lobby group of 3 lakh doctors, called off the strike after the Lok Sabha referred the bill to the standing committee.After considering the bill and getting comments, the committee is expected to give its recommendations on any amendments required, a senior government official told ETon condition of anonymity.

The IMA objected to several provisions in the bill, including section 49, which would enable practitioners of homeopathy and Indian systems of medicine to prescribe allopathic drugs after completing a bridge course.”It is not scientific because you cannot have a doctor practicing two systems of medicine together,” said former IMA national president KK Aggarwal.

The bill is “anti-poor” because it allows medical colleges to set fees for over 50% of its seats, he said. “We hope they (standing committee) will call IMA for discussion,” Aggarwal told ET, adding that the body has already started drafting recommendations to amend this bill.

“In its present format, the bill is not acceptable to us… It has a lot of loopholes for corruption when it comes to the penalty (for violations by medical institutions). It is not a community friendly bill and it needs debate.”Union health minister JP Nadda told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday that he had detailed discussions with the IMA following its decision to call the strike and cleared the body’s doubts.

The bill, proposed by a four-member Niti Aayog committee in 2016, was modified by a Group of Ministers in July 2017 before receiving cabinet approval last month. The MCI has long been criticised for corruption and lack of accountability which, according to a parliamentary standing committee report on health in March 2016, would lead to great social, financial and political cost if unchecked.

The bill is expected to end the “heavy handed” regulatory control over medical education institutions and would signal a shift towards outcome-based monitoring, a senior government official told ET earlier.It provides for a 25-member National Medial Commission to regulate medical education in the country, with four boards overseeing undergraduate and post-graduate courses, registration and ethics enforcement in the profession.

The commission would be empowered to frame guidelines to determine fees for up to 40% of the seats in private colleges and deemed universities, which is expected to give meritorious students access to seats irrespective of financial status. The MCI did not have any power to prescribe fees.

Monetary penalty proposed in the bill is up to 10 times the annual tuition fee, whereas the MCI would refuse renewal permission and admission in case institutions did not meet requirements. The bill also cuts the number of permissions needed to start and recognise undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

The Economic Times, New Delhi, 03rd January 2018

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