NMC Bill shouldn’t make bridge course for AYUSH practitioners mandatory: panel

New Delhi: The parliamentary panel reviewing the controversial National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2017 has considered the contentions made by the medical fraternity, it said in its report released on Tuesday.

The Bill proposes a provision for specific bridge courses that may be introduced for the practitioners of Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) to enable them to prescribe modern medicines at some level to cope up with the shortage of doctors in rural areas. The department-related parliamentary committee, after reviewing the proposal, said the bridge course should not be made a mandatory provision in the present Bill.

“Every state has their own specific healthcare issues and challenges. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the State Governments may implement measures to enhance the capacity of the existing healthcare professionals including AYUSH practitioners, B.Sc (Nursing), BDS, B.Pharma etc to address their state-specific primary healthcare issues in the rural areas,” the parliamentary panel said in its report.

“The healthcare professionals who are practising without the requisite qualifications anywhere in the country may attract penal provisions,” it said.

The NMC Bill 2017 also seeks a National Licentiate Examination (NLE)—a common licentiate examination for medical graduates for enrolment into the Medical Register(s). The committee held that NLE will put undue stress on students, especially those who come from backward sections of the society and states, and cannot afford private guidance/tuitions for NLE and may not be able to crack the multiple choice questions.

“Unless the NLE is carefully designed, there is apprehension that a sizeable number of MBBS doctors who have passed their university level examinations, may be debarred from practice on disqualifying NLE. This will not only undermine the sanctity of the examinations conducted by various universities but also put extra pressure on the system when the country is already facing a shortage of doctors,” the panel said.

“This will create a dichotomy where the university certifies a doctor as fit to practice and the failure to qualify NLE exam renders him unfit to practice. It is obvious that the implementation problem will be huge and the country will, over a period of time, have a population of mismatched unhappy doctors, who have nowhere to go,” it said.

The committee recommended that the licentiate examination be integrated with the final-year MBBS examination and be conducted at the state level. The committee also strongly recommended deleting a provision from the Bill that gives discretionary powers to the Central government to allow those who have failed in the licentiate exam to practice medicine or perform surgery.

The NMC Bill has been receiving flak from medical associations over various provisions that have led to protest marches and doctors going on strike. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) raised the issue of doctors’ strike across the country against the Bill in January this year.

However, Union minister of health and family welfare J.P. Nadda had said in the Rajya Sabha that “this is beneficial to the medical profession”.

The NMC Bill 2017 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on 29 December 2017 and subsequently referred to the department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare by the Rajya Sabha chairman in consultation with the Lok Sabha Speaker on 4 January 2018 for detailed examination and report.livemint

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