The Union Government, in the first session of new Lok Sabha, plans to re-introduce National Medical Commission Bill(NMC Bill), which aims to usher in mega reforms in the medical education sector.
The NMC bill, introduced in December 2017, got lapsed with the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha. According to the sources, with the formation of the new government, the Union health ministry would have to initiate the legislative process again, and for that, a fresh draft bill would be put before the Cabinet soon. “The draft NMC Bill is currently awaiting approval from the Law Ministry,” an official said.
The bill aimed at replacing the Medical Council of India act,1956 and included the contentious provision of a “bridge course” to allow practitioners of alternative medicines to pursue allopathy. After its introduction in the Lower House of parliament in 2017, the bill was referred to a Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee following massive protests from the medical fraternity.
Following the recommendations of the parliamentary panel in March 2018, the health ministry omitted the contentious provision and also made some other changes as suggested by the committee before moving the official amendments in the Lok Sabha.
“The official amendments were approved by the Cabinet and moved to the Lok Sabha separately. Now the NMC bill has been redrafted and the amendments as suggested by the parliamentary panel have been incorporated. The draft bill would be sent to the Cabinet soon,” the official said.
As the term of the elected body of the Medical Council of India was coming to an end, the Centre dissolved the apex body and issued an ordinance in September last year, appointing a seven-member Board of Governors (BoG) to run the scam-tainted medical education regulator. Now the health ministry will move a bill to replace the ordinance so that the BoG can continue to function, the official said. Some of the provisions of the NMC Bill, including the ‘bridge course’, were strongly opposed by health bodies, including the Indian Medical Association (IMA). They claimed that allowing AYUSH doctors to practice modern medicine would promote “quackery”, although the ministry had argued that the provision seeks to address the “acute shortage” of doctors in the country. Following the strong protests, the health ministry scraped off the idea of a bridge course.
The amendments stated that the final year MBBS exam would be conducted as a common exam across the country and would serve as an exit test called the National Exit Test (NEXT). The idea being the students would not have to appear in a separate exam after MBBS to get a license to practice. The health ministry has earlier said that NEXT would also serve as the screening test for doctors with foreign medical qualifications in order to practice in India. “It has been left to the state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary healthcare in rural areas,” the amendment stated. It has also made the punishment for unauthorised practice of medicine more severe with imprisonment of up to one year along with a fine up to five lakh.
The maximum limit of 40 per cent seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities for which the fee would be regulated was increased to 50 per cent. Further, it was clarified that the fee would also include all other charges taken by the colleges.

Source: The Indian Express

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