© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Sweet Poison, Gorgeous Vamp, Philanthropist Criminal or NMC. All of these have one thing in common: the taste, the appearance is deceptive.
Just a while ago, doctors had complete autonomy and freedom to elect the best to the medical councils. They failed. Doctors had chances to unite and rectify glaring obvious malpractices in their own profession. They failed. Doctors had a freedom to pressurise elected medical council members to enforce ethics and discipline in Indian medicine, to arrest corruption. They failed. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
The parliamentary standing committee said something like “MCI looked only after doctor’s interests, not that of public, it is necessary to reduce the monopoly of doctors, so there should be diverse stakeholders at the helm”. The fact was that MCI looked only after its own interests, not even those of the real doctors of India: the thousands who were shouldering the actual healthcare burden especially in govt hospitals and rural areas, underpaid and unprotected. Malpractices became rampant. The general social jealousy about doctors which was earlier suppressed by respect converted into open anger and fuelled a paranoia that did not spare the best of the medical practitioners. For the sins of few, majority suffered. Patients too suffered at all levels. Govt medical services were always pathetic (and will remain so even after NMC), and there was no reign over the corporates who dominated and dictated the scene. Competition and petty egos destroyed any chances of any good unity among doctors. There could not be a deeper nadir for the profession. © Dr. Rajas Deshpande.
That fathered the NMC. Doctors will need to unite now like never before if they want to change this “Law”. Laws can be changed. But is it necessary in this case? Decide for yourself.
1. The ultimate, complete control of this “Autonomous” NMC is is in the hands of the central government. Majority members are govt. officials, a minority are to be chosen by medical professionals, and in every case, all that the central govt. decides is going to be a binding upon the NMC. That is like cutting off the wings of a bird and naming it “Independent and Free”. NMC, its advisory committee search committee or its four component boards will all be dominated by govt.’s chairs. Central Govt will also decide about the funding and salaries of the NMC members and its Chairman. We all know who sits in the top chairs of govt. institutes and how many among them can speak against the govt. So tomorrow if the govt wants to make ANY decision about ANYTHING that governs Indian Doctors, it can. Who will stop them if wrong? Such is the control of Central Govt. over this NMC, that if a doctor is unhappy about some decision of state medical council, he can go to NMC, and if unhappy about NMC’s decision, he will have to appeal to….? Courts of law? No. Something higher: the central govt!! So every medical practitioner’s career is ultimately in the hands of the central govt. Better join the party. Or quit medicine.
2. The entrance examinations are more simplified. All undergraduate examinations will be through NEET. All who have completed undergraduate course (MBBS curriculum) will appear for the Final MBBS exam which will also be common National exam (NEXT) for Medical Licence and PG admissions. Due to legal status of institutes like AIIMS, PGI, etc., they will conduct a separate PG entrance exam. Although this appears simplified, given the history of corruption (at almost all levels) in such exams and delays that waste millions of youth-years, one is worried about an undercurrent ‘sale’ of PG seats. But wait, not everyone must pass the licensing exam. You can entirely skip the difficult MBBS course, do something else, and bridge over in 6 months, without having to pass the licensing exams. That’s the third bullet.
3. Some AYUSH doctors are better than some MBBS doctors. Many who can not get into MBBS in spite of merit opt for other streams, with a hope to become a good doctor. They are actually contributing a lot to our healthcare, many of them know their limitations. One cannot object to their wish to practice allopathy if they want to study and upgrade themselves, the only objection is to exempt them from the common licensing exams. That will be very unfair to our society, most of whom will never know whether the doctor treating them has adequate experience, qualification and wisdom.
A newly passed out lawyer cannot do a “Six Month Bridge Course” to become a High Court Judge. A new recruit in Police cannot become an Inspector though a “Six Month Bridge Course”. A Municipal Councillor / Nagarsewak cannot “Bridge Course” himself into a Health Minister or Prime Minister. One needs to qualify though a common mandatory process. After MBBS, one cannot do a “bridge course” to become an MD that requires three years of intense responsibility handling, studying, treating patients under supervision and obtaining a deep insight into that subject. It is not possible in six months even for an allopath. Likewise, if an AYUSH doctor must practice allopathy, they must go through the necessary training (two to three years) and more importantly qualify the same common licensing exam before they practice the complicated allopathy.
AYUSH is an excellent idea, but it is immature as of now.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
4. The Doctor:Patient ratio in India is misquoted. Due to poor payments and infrastructures, very few doctors stay either in rural areas or govt. services, and the whole equation is skewed. The very purpose of AYUSH was to bring in more medical personnel, but that would work if these (3.5 lacs) “bridge” course doctors honoured the opportunity and worked only where there was a scarcity of doctors (urban and rural). What is more likely is that these additional doctors will also join the existing urban trend. Who can blame them for wanting a better life?
5. The newer policies of “more data, more paperwork, more record keeping, tighter control” over doctors will only result in private practitioners becoming more paranoid, giving up all the voluntary charity that they did every day, spending more time per case: and that will reduce numbers and spike fees. I can foresee most private practitioners closing down clinics. More rules and paperwork mean more corruption and exploitation in our country. This will turn into higher cost per consultation. Private healthcare will be out of reach for the poor. The good doctor will no more sit in his own clinic, he will turn to a safer corporate hospital. (Is that the aim?).
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
6. The NMC bill entirely skips any word about regulating the large private healthcare sector. It does not have any provisions to protect new and good doctors from the tyranny and forces of corporate expectations. Some private hospitals have excellent policies and ethics, some corporates are very doctor and patient-friendly, but many remain to be corrected. There is no authority to the NMC over such hospitals.
7. There is no mention about improving staff and facilities at govt. hospitals, about any rules that ensure the best free healthcare for millions of poor patients in India. The ground reality that many patients suffer and die due to lack of staff, medicines, technology, tests and surgeries at government hospitals finds no mention in the reports of the Parliamentary committees that suggested the NMC. They did not mention the pathetic, unsafe and inhuman conditions in which Indian medical students and resident doctors live and work. They did not mention who will be responsible if a patient dies in a govt hospital due to lack of facilities or medicines. They appear to be more concerned about the price control of 40 percent seats in private medical colleges.
It is sad that in spite of many doctors in and around the central government, the medical field’s autonomy died with this bill. Shall we call it Euthanasia or “Physician assisted death” of the autonomy of medical profession? © Dr. Rajas Deshpande. In the era of the MCI, doctors were orphans, now in the era of NMC, they have become slaves.
The corrections in this bill will have to be put forth and pursued by a totally unified doctor’s organisation. “Painkiller Agitations” will not work. We must ask for complete release of the NMC from the cages of central government. Like in the UK, Indian NMC should be made up of 50% Senior Doctors representing all states and specialties, and the remaining 50% can be selected by the patient organisations: Judges, Media Stalwarts, Journalists, Artists, Ministers and Eminent Social Personalities. We must ask for transparency and fool-proofing of all medical entrance exams. We must ask for the right education, experience and licensing of AYUSH doctors, and welcome them once they qualify.
This article is written with my heart which bleeds for my profession and my patient alike. Bharat Maata Ki Jay!
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
PS: Thank you Dr. Avinash Deshpande, Aurangabad, for some valuable inputs. If there are any technical mistakes, please let me know so I can correct.
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