New Delhi: Outpatient department (OPD) services in several private and government hospitals across the country were disrupted on Tuesday as doctors walked off the job.
The work boycott was part of a protest called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and state medical associations against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2017, introduced in the Lok Sabha last week.
OPD doctors in hospitals across 11 states stayed away from work to protest against the Bill, calling it “anti-poor, anti-people, non-representative, undemocratic and anti-federal in character."
IMA later in the day called off the strike after the Lok Sabha referred the Bill to a standing committee, seeking its recommendation prior to the budget session, which is expected to start by the end of this month.
“We have spoken with the government. We had called the nationwide strike though emergency services were functioning," said Ravi Wankhedkar, president of IMA.
The disruption led to the cancellation of many follow-up appointments in private and government hospital OPDs. The ministry of health had on Monday issued an advisory to all central government-run hospitals to take steps to run emergency services smoothly. Doctors wore black bands in protest.
Union health minister J.P. Nadda said talks were on with the IMA to clear their doubts.
“This is beneficial to the medical profession," Nadda said in the Rajya Sabha after members raised the issue of strike by the doctors across the country against the Bill. Nadda said talks with the striking doctors were going on. “We have heard them and also presented our views," he said.
The NMC Bill has received flak from medical associations over various provisions.
“It removes all the regulations required to start a medical college. Under this Bill, no one needs any permission to start a medical college. Also, any private medical college can increase its UG/PG (undergraduate/postgraduate) seats by itself. Only up to 40% of seats in a private medical college can be regulated by the government. For 60% or more seats, the private colleges will fix the rates which means that the poor students from SC/ST (scheduled caste/scheduled tribe) classes will be deprived of medical education," claimed Vijay Kumar Malhotra, president of the Delhi Medical Association.
“There are huge loopholes in financial penalties ranging from Rs5 crore to Rs100 crore, opening the floodgates of corruption. Medical education in the country will become expensive, placing the lower socio-economic groups in great disadvantage. Only five states will be represented in NMC at any point of time," he said.