Agitated over the passage of National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill in the Lok Sabha, residents doctors of government hospitals, including AIIMS and RML in Delhi, have threatened to go on an indefinite strike, including withdrawal of services at emergency departments on Thursday, reported PTI.
The effect was felt in West Bengal, where healthcare services were crippled in most state-run hospitals as doctors stayed away from work on Wednesday in response to a 24-hour strike called by the IMA. Several health facilities across the country responded to it including states like Gujarat, Rajasthan. More than 28,000 doctors in Gujarat joined the protest.
The bill, which seeks to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI), is slated to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The bill provides for the setting up of a National Medical Commission in place of the MCI for the development and regulation of all aspects of medical education, profession and institutions.
Alleging that the bill was “anti-poor, anti-student and undemocratic,” Dr Sumedh Sandanshiv, president, Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) said, “Resident doctors will refrain from working in the OPDs, emergency departments and ICUs as a mark of protest on Thursday and the strike will continue for an indefinite period if the bill is tabled and passed in the Rajya Sabha.”
Doctors have demanded certain amendments in the bill. According to them, if not amended, the bill would lead to the deterioration of medical education and the degradation of healthcare services in the country. One particular clause they have objected to is Section 45 of the bill, which, they claim, empowers the Centre to override any suggestion of the National Medical Commission.
“The autonomy and pride of the entire medical fraternity have been surrendered to the whims and fancies of politicians and bureaucrats even as the Union health minister is a doctor himself,” AIIMS RDA president Amarinder Singh Malhi and president of its students’ union Mukul Kumar said in a joint statement.
“The government can also make any directions to the NMC and the autonomous boards constituted there-under regarding any policy matter to be followed religiously without any argument by the commission. This is a mockery of representative democracy,” they had said.
At a joint meeting of representatives of the FORDA, the URDA and the RDA-AIIMS held on Tuesday, it was resolved to oppose the NMC Bill, 2019 in its current form.
“If it is tabled in its current form in the Rajya Sabha without any amendments, the medical fraternity across the country will be forced to resort to extreme measures, which may hamper the healthcare services nationwide. We will withdraw from essential and non-essential services from the hospitals for an indefinite period,” the AIIMS RDA, the FORDA and the Untied-RDA said in a joint statement.
The IMA is also opposing other provisions in the bill, including the decision to introduce the NEXT by scrapping the NEET-PG and regulation of fees by the NMC for 50 per cent seats in private medical colleges and deemed universities. The bill proposes a common final-year MBBS examination, to be known as the National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining a licence to practise medicine.
It would also act as a screening test for foreign medical graduates, official sources said. Besides, the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the common counselling and the NEXT will be applicable to institutes of national importance like the AIIMS in order to achieve a common standard in medical education across the country.