On Tuesday, the government sent the controversial National Medical Commission Bill to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, heeding the voices of lakhs of doctors across the country on a 12-hour strike. The Bill as it stands leaves too much, too ambiguous.
The Bill proposes to replace the current elected Medical Council of India (MCI) with a National Medical Commission to which members will be nominated by a search committee, itself set up by the government. Reports of the MCI’s corruption and inefficiency are legion and the system has long required an overhaul. However, in the very constitution of the commission—members being nominated, rather than elected—lies a point of contention. Further, the Bill proposes to regulate the fees of only 40 per cent of medical seats in private institutions. This may cause medical education become more expensive.
Doctors are also concerned that the Bill may provide a backdoor entry for AYUSH practitioners to practice allopathic medicine. The language here is ambiguous. The Bill says AYUSH practitioners may be added to a separate national registry once they clear a bridge course. It does not outright say that this would allow them to practice allopathic medicine. But this appears to have upset doctors the most.
While, it would most definitely be of concern if AYUSH practitioners were allowed to practice allopathic medicine, doctors must realise that these practitioners are already doing so in many parts of rural India for want of MBBS doctors. The government then may be making a shortsighted decision to regularise this instead of focusing on increasing the number of MBBS doctors and incentivising rural postings. Further, the government’s aim of ostensibly promoting holistic medicine is a positive one. Allopathic doctors must be open to this.
However, it must also ensure that scientific rigour of allopathic medicine is also introduced in AYUSH practices and research. The standing committee must address these concerns in consultation with stakeholders.