NEW DELHI: The Centre will set up the National Medical Commission (NMC) within six months, Union minister of health and family welfare Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.

President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to the NMC Bill 2019 on Thursday.

The government said that the NMC Act 2019 is a progressive legislation, which will reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down costs of medical education, simplify procedures, help enhance the number of medical seats in India, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people for quality healthcare.

“In a bid to deal with quacks in the country, the punishment for quackery under the Act has been enhanced by up to one year imprisonment and up to 5 lakh fine. NMC will be an overarching body, which will frame policies and coordinate the activities of four autonomous boards. These boards will look after the work of undergraduate (UG) and postgraduate (PG) education, medical assessment and rating; and ethics and medical registration," said Harsh Vardhan.

“One of the mandates of NMC is to look at the cost of medical education. It also provides for a common entrance test for MBBS (NEET), along with common counselling process for all medical institutions in the country. This provision will prevent seat blocking in parallel counselling processes and will eliminate the need for students to approach multiple colleges and take part in multiple counselling sessions for admission. This will save students and their families from unnecessary physical and financial trauma," he added.

The most contentious provision of the Act, opposed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), deals with community health providers (CHP). The government proposes to deploy 250,000 CHPs, following a proper registration process, in remote villages to treat patients. Protesting doctors alleged the government is practically authorizing quacks to play with the life of unsuspecting patients.

However, the health minister said: “The so-called quacks in the country do not possess any qualifications and would not be able to meet the conditions that will be set by the NMC for becoming a CHP. Also, they will have limited powers for providing primary and preventive healthcare at the mid-level. We are looking at universal health coverage and, more importantly, universal screening of our population for non-communicable diseases in the years to come."

“This requires a large number of health professionals. Doctors are a scarce resource in our country and need to be optimally utilized. They are indispensable for secondary and tertiary care; the only area where other health professionals can supplement them is preventive and primary healthcare," said Harsh Vardhan.

The government aims to place CHPs in remote areas, where doctors are not available, who can be used to counsel the population, provide early warnings, treat elementary ailments, and refer patients to a better facility.

“Our rural population deserves the best healthcare facilities. We have a system of community health centres (CHCs) and primary health centres (PHCs) in rural areas based on population norms. This system is continuing and efforts are being made to fill up vacancies at such centres," said Harsh Vardhan.

“Flexibility has been provided under National Health Mission (NHM) to pay higher salaries to doctors and some states are even following a policy of ‘you quote, we pay’ to attract doctors," he added.

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