NEW DELHI: Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill, aimed at regulating 59 professions in the health sector, that includes physiotherapists, dieticians and optometrists, has earned a notorious reputation in the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of being one of the oldest legislation in the making.
Curiously, 59th draft of the bill, deliberation on whose first version started some 20 years back, has gone for inter-ministerial consultations recently yet another time, sources in the ministry said.
The Bill had been planned before 2000 with an aim to standardise all professions in the healthcare sector except for medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing.
“It has long been felt that while there are lakhs of people working in this sector, nobody knows what the quality of their training or education is or what syllabi they have studied in institutes which offer these courses,” a senior ministry official said.
“So to ensure standardisation of their education and services—the bill had envisioned setting up an umbrella council that will lay down norms for all these vocations.”
He added that after years of consultation, an earlier version of the bill, then called Paramedical and Physiotherapy Central Councils Bill was tabled in the parliament in 2007, but was referred to a parliamentary standing committee which sent it back to the ministry for re-drafting.
“Since the bill encompasses 59 services in the sector—it has proved extremely difficult to address concerns of representatives of all these professions and therefore no draft till date has satisfied all the stakeholders,” another ministry official said.
He also pointed out that most associations even had a problem with the nomenclature of the bill. “We had proposed its name as Allied Healthcare Professionals Bill” but many associations objected saying they were not “allied.”
The ministry has now called it “Allied and Healthcare Professionals Bill”. “It is a strange nomenclature but associations are okay with it because nobody knows which profession is allied and which is not,” the official mused. “
Officials conceded that given the background and history of the bill, it is not clear whether even the present draft will also reach the Cabinet level before it can be tabled in the parliament.
Associations, on their part, said that they had “genuine reservations” which have they have been raising during the discussions.
“We had a problem with the composition of the council, definition of our practice and regulation of services that we offer and we have been taking it up with the government,” said Sanjiv K Jha, president of the Indian Association of Physiotherapists.
Prem Singh, vice-president of the Indian Optometrists’ Association said that it was due to “vested interests” in the healthcare sector because of which the bill has been moving in a cycle instead of going forward.