IMA strike call may hit private OPDs today

NEW DELHI: Services at private hospitals in India are likely to be hit on Tuesday as the Indian Medical Association has called for suspending routine services for 12 hours in protest against the National Medical Commission Bill, which seeks to replace Medical Council of India with a new body. The bill is likely to be debated in Parliament on Tuesday. OPDs of private hospitals may be hit but emergency and critical services will be open, officials said.

The bill also proposes to allow alternative medicine graduates to practise allopathy after completing a “bridge course”. In response to the doctor’s strike, the Union health ministry said it has written to all Centre-run hospitals such as Safdarjung, Ram Manohar Lohia, AIIMS and Lady Hardinge Medical College, to make necessary arrangements to ensure that patient care and emergency services are run smoothly.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA), which has been strongly opposing the NMC bill saying it will “cripple” the functioning of medical professionals by making them completely answerable to the bureaucracy and non-medical administrators, has declared Tuesday a “Black Day”. “The NMC Bill in the present form is not acceptable. This bill is anti-poor, anti-people, non-representative, undemocratic and anti-federal in character. The IMA headquarter hereby declares closure of all routine services for 12 hours from 6am to 6pm tomorrow across the country,” newly-appointed IMA national president Dr Ravi Wankhedkar said.

Delhi Medical Association is supporting IMA’s protest and has called upon all private and corporate hospitals in the capital to keep their OPD services closed. IMA members also held a meeting with Union health minister J P Nadda and conveyed their concerns over the bill. Dr K K Aggarwal, the former president of IMA, said they have already written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the health minister urging them to redraft the bill and rectify some of its provisions to protect the interest of the medical practitioners.

He said the provision which allows AYUSH graduates to practise modern medicine after completing a bridge course will promote quackery. The NMC bill proposes replacing the Medical Council of India with a new body and “possibly” section 15 of the IMC Act, which says that the basic qualification to practise modern medicine is MBBS, Dr Aggarwal said.

“It (the bill) takes away the voting right of every doctor in India to elect their medical council,” he said. “The Medical Council of India is a representative body of the medical profession in India. Any registered medical practitioner in the country can contest the election and every qualified doctor can vote. Abolishing a democratic institution and replacing it with a body in which a majority is nominated by the government, is certainly a retrograde step,” Dr Aggarwal said.

He further said the draft bill, in its current form, allows private medical colleges to charge at will, nullifying whatever solace the NEET brought. Clause 49 of the bill calls for a joint sitting of the National Medical Commission, the Central Council of Homoeopathy and the Central Council of Indian Medicine at least once a year “to enhance the interface between homoeopathy, Indian systems of medicine and modern systems of medicine”.

The bill proposes constitution of four autonomous boards entrusted with conducting undergraduate and postgraduate education, assessment and rating of medical institutions and registration of practitioners under the National Medical Commission. The commission will have a government-nominated chairman and members, and the board members will be selected by a search committee under the Cabinet Secretary, it says.


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