NEW DELHI: Charging that the Medical Council of India was "highly corrupt" and had lost credibility, a group of former bureaucrats and doctors have urged the Prime Minister to revamp the medical regulator, bring transparency and ensure that owners of hospital chains and colleges having "deep conflicts of interest" do not enter the body.
Five former secretaries of health and bio-technology departments as well former MCI members and prominent doctors have written to Prime Minister Naredra Modi seeeking his "personal involvement" in revamping the regulator and alleged that successive governments have shown their "inability" in handling "compromised" individuals in the body.
The secretaries and doctors have also urged the Prime Minister to take steps for revamping the curricula for graduate and post graduate medical education and separating the three functions of regulation, education and accreditation within the body.
"We request that implementation of the recommendations is taken up without delay, namely replacing the elected council with medical and non-medical persons to be selected by an expert body in a transparent manner, in order to ensure that hospital chains and owners of medical colleges, having deep conflicts of interest, do not enter this body and subvert it once again for their personal gain.
"Revamp the curricula for graduate and post-graduate education, separate the three functions of regulation, education and accreditation with eminent individuals known for their professional and personal integrity and the institution of a national entrance and exit examination so as to ensure better quality of the doctors being produced," the letter said.
Among those who have signed the letter are former health secretaries Javid Choudhury, Prasanna Hota, Sujatha Rao, Chandramouli and Keshav Desiraju and MK Bhan, former secretary of the Department of Biotechnology, and Gautam Sen and Sita Naik (former members of the Board of Governors of MCI), Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India, and eminent surgeon Samiran Nundy of Gangaram Hospital.
A parliamentary panel had recently recommended restructuring MCI, stating that its current composition is "biased" against larger public health goals and is an "exclusive club" of medical doctors from corporate hospitals and private practice.
The Committee had said the elected MCI neither represents "professional excellence nor its ethos", and that more than half of the members are either from corporate hospitals or in private practice.
The British Medical Journal (BMJ) had recently also called for a 'radical prescription' to reform the MCI in order to eliminate corruption and lack of ethics in healthcare.
The parliamentary panel on health has also come down heavily on corruption in MCI and said that it was shocked to find that compromised individuals have been able to make it to the MCI.
The letter by the secretaries and doctors said, "We request your personal involvement and leadership in the revamping of MCI.
"We have helplessly witnessed successive governments' inability in handling compromised individuals in the MCI even after being prosecuted and their integrity seriously questioned by no less than the Supreme Court of India.
"A strong professional regulator can only bring credit to the country and enable the sector to grow with credibility and respect that is its due."
They also suggested that pending the committee's work, the current MCI be replaced in view of the scathing observations of the Parliamentary Committee and a transition team of experts be constituted to work out the reform agenda over the span of of one or two years.
"This will enable a smoother implementation of the revised architecture when the Bill is enacted by the Parliament," it said.
The secretaries and doctors said that the rules and regulations governing the profession are not only "archaic" but also do not fulfil the needs of the country and have "incentivised corruption and greed".
"Even as you (Modi) are strenuously working towards generating respect and credibility for India abroad, articles in foreign journals and media have ridiculed the profession as one based on kickbacks, profiteering and brazen commercialisation.
"This is unfortunate but is directly the consequence of the highly corrupt and shameful Medical Council that brazenly allows private medical institutions to run as business ventures with 'ghost faculty' and 'fake patients'.
"The quality of education imparted at these institutions is suspect, giving rise to one foreign expert calling upon English-speaking countries of the US, UK, Australia and Canada to debar Indian medical doctors from being employed in their countries," the letter said.