NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday decided to remove the provision of a bridge course in the National Medical Commission (NMC) bill.
The provision had sought to enable practitioners of alternative medicine to practice modern medicine to a limited extent to deal with acute shortage of doctors in rural areas – which didn’t go well with allopathic practitioners and the Indian Medical Association had on Sunday threatened to launch indefinite strike across the country if the order was not withdrawn.
On Wednesday, a release issued by the government, said the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Modi has approved certain official amendments to the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill.
“The provision dealing with the bridge course for Ayush practitioners to practice modern medicine to a limited extent has also been removed. It has been left to the state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary health care in rural areas,” it stated.
The NMC Bill, 2017, which seeks to replace the existing apex medical education regulator, the Medical Council of India (MCI), with a new body, was moved by the government in Parliament on December 29.
Following opposition from the medical fraternity over different provisions of the proposed legislation, one of which was the ‘bridge course’, the Bill was referred to the parliamentary standing committee.
Officials said the amendment to the NMC Bill comes in the backdrop of the recommendations made by the standing committee in its report tabled in the House on March 20 and general feedback, particularly the views of medical students and practitioners regarding certain provisions of the Bill.
In its report, the committee had said that the bridge course should not be a mandatory provision under the NMC Bill. “The committee feels that every state has its own specific healthcare issues and challenges. The committee, therefore, recommends that the state governments may implement measures to enhance the capacity of existing healthcare professionals, including Ayush practitioners, BSc (Nursing), BDS, B Pharma and others to address their specific primary healthcare issues in rural areas,” it said.
The committee recommended penal provisions for those practising medicine without the requisite qualification, which has also been accepted by the Union Cabinet.
The official amendments to the NMC bill says anyone practising medicine without the requisite degree shall be imprisoned for up to one year along with a fine extending up to Rs 5 lakh. “0This is a great victory for medical professionals. Most of our demands have been met. But we will wait to see the fine print of the amended NMC Bill before deciding our future course of action,” IMA president Dr Ravi Wankhedkar told TOI .