News Brief

‘Biggest Reform In The Medical Sector’: Why The National Medical Commission Bill Is A Gamechanger

Representative image of doctors performing a surgery.

The Lok Sabha (LS) yesterday (29 July) passed the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2019 which has been termed by the Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan as one of the ‘biggest reforms’ in the heath sector during the debate on the bill.

Firstly, the bill seeks to replace the 63-year old and allegedly corruption-laden Medical Council of India (MCI) with the National Medical Commission, which will check the flawed regulation of medical colleges in the country under the MCI. Another BJP MP and physician Dr Mahesh Sharma has said that the 21 of the 26 members of the board will be doctors.

Second, the bill proposes a national level exit-exam in the final year of MBBS which will ensure that focus of medical education remains on outcomes rather than processes. This exam would be called the National Exit Test (NEXT) and will free up the NMC from a system of yearly inspections of infrastructure which fostered corruption.

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"Accordingly, yearly inspections have been done away with. This is expected to do away with Inspection Raj and foster addition of UG and PG seats in the country," Vardhan said in the LS.

The exam will also serve as the entrance test for Post Graduation seats and for students who graduate in medicine from foreign countries. The new procedure will be made operational within 3 years of the bill’s passage and will also be used a measure for granting licence to practice medicine as medical practitioners.

The third major provision in the bill is that it provides for determination of fees and all other charges in respect of 50 per cent of seats in private medical institutions and deemed to be universities.

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Vardhan has called the bill ‘pro-poor’ saying that it will bring not only government seats but also 50 per cent of all private seats within the reach of meritorious students belonging to economically weaker sections. Sharma added that the bill provides for 75 per cent of medical seats to be regulated by the board.

Lastly, the bill provisions for limited licences to persons connected with modern scientific medical profession at mid-level as Community Health Provider. The number of licences to be granted under this provision however will not exceed one-third of the total number of licensed professionals in the country.

The bill, which is now to be introduced in the Rajya Sabha, has led to protests by the medical community under the Indian Medical Association (IMA). A ‘token strike’ will be organised against it on 31 July with its national president, Santanu Sen describing the bill as ‘anti-people, anti-poor, anti-students, anti-democratic and draconian in nature’.

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Other IMA leaders have called the bill as biased towards the rich and pro-private management. It will encourage quackery by allowing people without adequate training to practice medicine, Rajan Sharma, National president-elect of the IMA said.

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