With the contentious National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2017 sent to the Standing Committee for review, an Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery consultant takes a deeper look at the bill and how it measures up in terms of solving major issues plaguing the medical education and healthcare industry in India. This is the Part-II of the series. You can read Part-I of the series here.
While there are many areas of concern in the proposed National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, 2017, like the National Exit Test (NEXT) — an exit-cum-licensure exam, and the ability of the private medical colleges to charge as they wish for 60% of their seats, the most troubling of them are the clauses which approve a “bridge course” for practitioners of Ayurveda and Homeopathy to prescribe mainstream medicines like an MBBS graduate can.
In Section 49(4), the bill says that a “specific bridge course that may be introduced for the practitioners of Homoeopathy and of Indian systems of Medicine to enable them to prescribe such modern medicines at such level as may be prescribed”, whereas, Section 54(o) of the bill adds that the government can notify rules for “the modern medicines that the practitioners of homeopathy and of Indian medicine may prescribe”. These are problematic sections.
Then there is also the possibility of the new NMC bill abolishing Section 15 of the Indian Medical Council Act, which says that the basic qualification to practise modern medicine is MBBS, thus throwing open the doors for all types of alternative medicine practitioners from plying their trade in the mainstream and prescribing modern drugs without any fear of punishment.
The excuse from the government, of course, is that the primary health sector in rural areas are under-served and hence they are trying to involve people from alternative medical streams in healthcare of the masses (something like the ridiculous “child-doctors” being tried in Gujarat to address the shortage of doctors in schools).
For decades, successive governments have turned a blind eye towards alternative medical practitioners prescribing modern medicines, and sometimes even dangerous medicines in the guise of alternative medicine. This new law legitimises the practice and makes it mainstream.