He has led many IMA initiatives from city, state and centre as a central working committee member of national IMA. TOI spoke to Dr Deshpande on the issues concerning the National Medical Commission (NMC) bill which was tabled in Parliament last Friday and then deferred to to a standing committee of Parliament. The bill is meant to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI).
Excerpts from an interview…
Q. IMA has been vehemently opposing the NMC bill. Why?
A. The NMC bill has components, which if implemented in its existing form, will make a mockery of the entire medical education system. The bill is not acceptable to IMA at all as it is anti-people, anti-patient, pro-rich, pro-private management. It will escalate the cost of both medical education and health care astronomically. IMA is not against the bill. In fact, it would want it after strengthening the MCI and plugging the loop holes.
Q. What is the biggest flaw in the NMC bill and how will it impact medical education and health care?
A. The biggest flaw in the NMC is that it is equating all other forms of medicine or pathies like ayurveda, homeopathy etc (Ayush) with modern medicine to meet the paucity of doctors. This may create half-baked doctors. The bill is a license for these doctors to ‘kill’ the patients. Unscientific mixing of different systems of medicine will ruin the practice of all other forms of medicines. By doing just a six-month to a one-year course the ayush doctors can practice modern medicine by taking a bridge course. But makers of the bill are not realizing that this will systematically kill all other pathies and only modern medicine will be left. This is against the development of all other forms of medicine which India has been always propagating.
Q. IMA terms NMC a non-democratic body. Why?
A. The MCI was a completely autonomous democratic body based on election of members. But NMC members are all government-nominated and hence the commission will be a puppet in its hands. It will comprise a chairman, a member secretary, 8 ex officio members and will have a Medical Advisory Council comprising representatives from states. But at any given time, there will be representation from just five states. Whereas in MCI, there was representation from not just all states but also all health universities. In MCI, 130 persons were responsible for a single decision. In NMC, there are just five elected representatives.
Q. How is the NMC bill pro-private management?
A. The bill is entirely pro-private management. It has done away with all the regulations required for starting a medical college. No one needs any permission to start a college. Any college can increase its undergraduate (UG) or post graduate (PG) seats by itself. All it must do is give an undertaking that it will meet the norms in a stipulated time. There will be no inspections for recognition of seats. This will open floodgates for corruption.
Q. IMA is claiming that the NMC bill deprive poor students from medical education. How?
A. Earlier there were just 15% management seats in private colleges. Now as much as 60% of the seats will be in hands of college and it can fix whatever fees it wants for these seats. Only 40% seats can now be regulated by the government. This will only make the have’s get admissions and deprive poor, SC/ST and even middle class candidates from getting admission in private colleges. This will also make the medical education many times more expensive and beyond the reach of the average citizen.
Q. IMA claims that NMC has huge scope for corruption. Why?
A. There are huge loopholes in implementing financial penalties which are expected to range from Rs5 to Rs100 crore. For private colleges money has never been a concern and hence they will violate all norms and pay the fine. Also, there is scope for levying fine on the whims and fancies of the regulators as there are no specified rules. NMC has a lot of scope to waive of many things. It can waive of charges like that of the students’ fees to fines.
Q. IMA students wing has also been opposing the bill. IMA is supporting the students. What is the reason for that?
Q. There is a concept of ‘Bal-doctors’ or student doctors in schools being introduced in Gujarat to meet the deficiency of doctors. What is your take on this?