Hailing the National Medical Commission (NMC) Act, 2019, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday termed it as a huge and visionary reform which will provide wider access to people for quality healthcare.
The Health Minister told reporters here that there will now be a health professional who can counsel the population, provide early warnings, treat elementary ailments, and provide early referral to a higher facility.
"A provision has been made in the NMC Act to register some Community Health Providers (CHPs) who shall be modern medicine professionals; they shall not be dealing with any alternative system of medicine. Also, they will have limited powers for providing primary and preventive healthcare at the mid-level," he said.
"The eminent doctors in NMC shall decide their qualifications through regulations which shall be finalised after extensive public consultation and debate," he added.
Dispelling rumours, fears and apprehensions about this provision giving a fillip to "quackery" in the country, he said that a false impression is being created that the provision for CHPs has been made to legalise quacks.
"Nothing can be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the punishment for quackery has been enhanced to up to one year imprisonment and up to Rs 5 lakhs fine. The so-called quacks in the country do not possess any qualifications and would not be able to meet the conditions that will be set by NMC for becoming a CHP," he said.
"The National Medical Commission Act 2019 passed by both Houses of Parliament is historic and path-breaking. It is a huge and visionary reform in the medical education sector by the NDA Government under the leadership of our visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, and will prove to be a milestone in the years to come," Vardhan said.
The Minister said the NMC Act is a progressive legislation which will reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down costs of medical education, simplify procedures, help to enhance the number of medical seats in India, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people for quality healthcare.
Speaking on the members in commission, Harsh Vardhan said the NMC will be representative, inclusive and respect the federal structure of Indian polity.
"There will be 10 Vice-Chancellors of State Health Universities and 9 elected members of State Medical Councils in the NMC. Thus 19 out of 33 members, which is more than half of the total strength, would be from the States and only a minority of members will be appointed by the central government thereby ensuring that the NMC is representative, inclusive and respecting the federal structure of Indian polity," he said.
"To ensure probity and integrity of the highest order, the members will have to declare their assets at the time of being appointed and again while demitting office. The members will also have to declare their professional and commercial engagement or involvement which will be published on the website of the Commission. It has been further provided that Chairperson / member on ceasing to hold office will not accept for a period of two years any employment in any capacity in a private medical institution whose matter has been dealt with them either directly or indirectly," he said.
The Health Minister said that the NMC will be an overarching body, which will frame policies and co-ordinate the activities of four Autonomous Boards.
"These Boards will look after the work of UG and PG education, Medical Assessment and Rating and Ethics and Medical Registration. The purpose of having these four independent Boards is to ensure separation of functions between them", he said.
Elaborating on its salient features, Vardhan stated that the NMC is a student-friendly initiative.
"Even in the current system, every student has to appear for a final year examination. Under the NMC Act, this final year examination has been converted into a nationwide exit test called NEXT. This single examination will grant -- a license to practice medicine, an MBBS degree, and entrance to postgraduate courses," he said.
"Students will be able to concentrate on an internship instead of spending all their time preparing for entry into PG courses and thus the burden on students will be greatly reduced. The same examination will also serve as a licentiate exam for foreign graduates," he added.
The Health Minister further said that there is a provision for common counselling for entrance to PG courses also.
"Students will be able to get admission to seats in all medical colleges and to Institutes of National Importance like AIIMS, PGI Chandigarh and JIPMER through a single counselling process. The Act does not impose any restriction on the number of attempts at NEXT examination," he said.
Harsh Vardhan said that the NMC provides for the regulation of fees and all other charges in 50 per cent seats in private colleges as well as deemed to be Universities.
"Nearly 50 per cent of the total MBBS seats in the country are in government colleges, which have nominal fees. Of the remaining seats, 50 per cent would be regulated by NMC. This means that almost 75 per cent of total seats in the country would be available at reasonable fees. It must be stressed again at this point that not only fees, but fees and all other charges are being regulated," he said.
Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha had passed the NMC Bill which seeks to create National Medical Commission in place of Medical Council of India. Since the Bill was passed in the Parliament, the Indian Medical Association has been raising apprehensions regarding its certain provisions.
The Bill provides for the repeal of the Indian Medical Council Act 1956.
( With inputs from ANI )