Over the years, the field of medicine has seen the propping up of a number of issues in India. According to Reuters, since 2010, at least 69 Indian medical colleges and teaching hospitals have exhibited numerous issues, including rigging entrance exams or accepting bribes to admit students. In the wake of such a situation, a dozen schools were also recommended to be shut down. The practitioners and the college officials themselves have agreed upon the prevalence of the exchange of bribes under the pretext of donations.
A cheating circuit in the Medical Entrance Exam in Madhya Pradesh was exposed in 2013 by Dr Anand Rai, which is another manifestation of the problems that the entire system of medicine in India is infested with. The cycle of bribery does not end here; its extensions are well reflected even in the day-to-day public healthcare systems where quite often many patients have to resort to bribery to see the doctors. This largely happens because the number of doctors isn’t enough in the country.
Now to deal with these problems in the system of medical education, a body by the name of Medical Council of India (MCI) has been set up. Firstpost defines MCI as an elected statutory body comprising mostly of qualified medical doctors and some government nominated ex-officio members to help in the functioning of the organisation. Ironically, this body, which was supposed to uphold the standards of medical education in the country across the various levels of training in medicine has itself been in the midst of lawsuits and charges of corruption.
Further loopholes that have been noted in its functioning include poor or insufficient training being provided to the students studying in both private and public medical institutions in the country. In order to deal with the menace created by the MCI, a reformatory bill- National Medical Commission Bill was proposed in 2016, which aimed to replace the Medical Commission of India with the National Medical Commission (NMC). This new body is largely supposed to consist of bureaucrats and experts from the civil society, unlike the Medical Commission of India which consisted of practicing members from the field of medicine.
A major point of criticism of the proposed bill has been on account of the replacement of a democratic organisation with a government controlled body. As reported by Firstpost, the bill also talks about replacing the mechanism of de-recognising substandard medical education institutions, with punishment and fines. Quite clearly such a proposition is not a strong enough measure required for dealing with something as serious as the violation of the standards that the medical colleges of the country are supposed to maintain.
When there are already numerous institutions compromising on the kind of training that the students of medicine are supposed to get, despite the fact that the MCI refused recognition for 132 medical colleges in the last year, then imagine the increase in the number of the same that will follow when the severity of the measures taken against such institutes is relaxed. One of the most controversial provision among all the points of the NMC Bill includes the clause of providing for bridge courses which will equip the alternative practitioners in medicine with the permission to prescribe modern drugs.
Besides the problems that are associated with the regulations that are enlisted in the bill, there are a lot more issues pertaining to what is missing from this apparently reformatory bill. The bill fails to give concrete measures to keep a check on the potentially illegal activities that the National Medical Commission might exhibit once it is established, much like the Medical Council of India. The bill does propose that the NMC shall be answerable to the National Advisory Council (NAC), however, the problem arises when some members from the NMC are also the members of the NAC . Hence it becomes difficult to understand as to how the NMC will be prevented from becoming another MCI.
Thus, the decision of the Lok Sabha to send the National Medical Commission Bill to the standing committee for a re look is being considered as a step which might help in resolving the shortcomings of the bill. The propositions made in the National Medical Commission Bill aren’t improper but they are rather insufficient and have ambiguous arguments over certain issues that the bill is supposed to resolve. Therefore, it is being expected that with this latest decision of the Lok Sabha, a stronger solution shall come to substantiate the formation of the National Medical Council.
-Contributed by Richa Bhatt
Picture Credits: hausa.leadership.nj