Doctors and medical students protesting against the passage of National Medical Commission Bill, outside AIIMS in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)
Doctors and medical students protesting against the passage of National Medical Commission Bill, outside AIIMS in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

Doctors call off strike against National Medical Commission Bill

  • Health minister Harsh Vardhan meets the striking doctors at his residence
  • Vardhan reiterates that NMC Bill is a big change in the field of medical education which will prove to be a blessing in better health services to 130 crore people

NEW DELHI : After a four-day tussle with the Centre, doctors protesting against the controversial National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019, called off their strike and resumed duties on Sunday.

Union health minister Harsh Vardhan on Sunday met the striking doctors at his residence as healthcare services were badly hit at hospitals in the national capital.

The minister said he cleared doubts and queries related to the provisions of the NMC Bill. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha last week.

"Met the delegation of AIIMS RDA (Resident Doctors Association of All India Institute of Medical Sciences) at my residence and reiterated that National Medical Commission Bill is a big change in the field of medical education which will prove to be a blessing in better health services to 130 crore people," Harsh Vardhan tweeted.

“Besides AIIMS RDA, also met SJHDELHI RDA delegation and removed their misconceptions regarding NMC Bill. Hope the agitating doctors, in view of problems faced by patients, and national interest end their protest," he said in his tweet.

The AIIMS RDA in an official statement said the minister has assured them that the ministry will consult them before framing the regulations of the NMC and their concerns will be addressed.

Healthcare services were affected till Sunday evening as resident doctors at some government hospitals, including AIIMS and Safdarjung, didn’t deliver non-essential services even as emergency services had resumed in all healthcare facilities on Saturday.

On Saturday, AIIMS and Safdarjung Hospital authorities said punitive action will be taken against protesting doctors if they don’t return to work. But, striking doctors continued their agitation and police had to be deployed around campuses to control the situation.

The NMC Bill proposes to repeal the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and replace the Medical Council of India (MCI), which was dissolved in 2010 following corruption charges against its president Ketan Desai by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). As per the Bill, a national medical commission will be set up in place of MCI that will have responsibilities such as approving and assessing medical colleges, conducting common MBBS entrance and exit examinations and regulating medical course fees.

Doctors are demanding certain amendments in the Bill.

According to the Bill, the Commission may grant limited licence to practise medicine at mid-level as Community Health Provider to such person connected with modern scientific medical profession who qualifies the criteria specified by the regulations.

The fraternity is opposing this section stating that it will encourage quackery by providing licence to practice modern medicine as community health providers for persons other than those possessing MBBS degrees.

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.

Striking doctors said there was no clarity over introduction of National Exit Test (NEXT) and scrapping the NEET-PG. They are also opposing decreasing the percentage of seats under controlled fees structure in private medical colleges and deemed universities from 85% to 50%, reducing representation of elected members from 75% in MCI to 20% in National Medical Commission and autonomous boards constituted there-under.

They are objecting to section 45 of the bill, which, they claim, empowers the Union government to override any suggestion of the National Medical Commission.

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