“I heartily welcome the Ordinance to supersede the Medical Council of India (MCI). This will strengthen medical education in the country”, stated Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare JP Nadda, today. He said that “The powers of the Council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG). It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and much required reforms in the field of medical education.” Further he added, “I am happy that professionals of great eminence, who were earlier part of the Oversight Committee formed by Hon. Supreme Court, will constitute the BoG and I am sure they will work towards enhancing access to quality healthcare for all.” The Health Minister stated that the Government of India has been committed to improving healthcare of all, particularly the poor and deprived sections. The country has faced several challenges in health sector: high levels of out of pocket expenditure and catastrophic expenditure that impoverished people due to inadequate public health infrastructure and limited access and coverage of essential and life-saving interventions. During the last four years, several measures have been taken to systematically address these challenges.
Nadda stated that to enable holistic healthcare to our citizens with focus on poor and vulnerable, we have launched the ambitious Ayushman Bharat, with its twin pillars of comprehensive primary healthcare through health and wellness centers (HWCs) and the PM-JAY. “By 2022 we will create over 150,000 health and wellness centers so that primary healthcare including prevention and health promotion is universal, accessible and equitable”, he elaborated. The PM-JAY enables financial protection to 10.74 crore vulnerable families (about 50 crore individuals), covering nearly 40 percent of our people, with an annual benefit cover of ₹5 lakh per family. 31 states have already signed the MOU and 26 states have already started implementing it. Over 2300 HWCs are already operational across the country and 15,000 will be operational before the end of the year. The Health Minister said that on the policy front, the Government launched the National Health Policy in 2017, fifteen years after the last policy in 2002 that reflects our vision to improve health status through concerted policy action in all sectors and expand preventive, promotive, curative, palliative and rehabilitative services with a focus on healthcare needs of the poor and disadvantaged.
Despite several path-breaking efforts and initiatives, the country’s march to achieving the Universal Health Coverage and other targets of Sustainable Development Goals and National Health Policy is constrained on account of inadequate number of qualified healthcare professionals due to slow pace of commensurate reforms in medical education. For years poor people have to travel from far of places to Delhi for getting tertiary care facility at AIIMS. Priority of the government is to expand quality tertiary healthcare facilities in all parts of the country. With announcement of 14 new AIIMS over the past 4 years, the total number of AIIMS will go up to 22. Further, super specialty Blocks are being set up in 54 medical colleges at a cost of around ₹9000 crores. To improve availability of tertiary care and expand access to medical education in underserved areas, the GOI is setting up a network of medical colleges all over the country. 82 new medical colleges costing ₹16,000 crores are being set up under a centrally sponsored scheme to ensure that there is at least one college for every three parliamentary constituencies. Nadda said that the ambitious programs and policies of healthcare could not be made a reality without ensuring availability of required number of qualified doctors and other healthcare professionals. Realizing this need, the Government has attempted to bring about reforms in medical education.
Based on the 92nd Report of March, 2016 of the Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health & Family Welfare and recommendations of a Group of Experts under late Professor Ranjit Roy Chaudhary, the Government introduced the National Medical Commission Bill, 2017 in Lok Sabha on 29.12.2017. The Bill provides for simplification of procedures and is expected to spur rapid growth in the number of UG and PG seats in the country besides enhancing the governance and quality of medical education. The NMC Bill provides for distribution of functions among four autonomous boards whose members would be persons of proven ability selected through a transparent process. The Bill was taken up for consideration on 02.01.2018 and was referred to Department related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health & Family Welfare for examination. The Parliamentary Standing Committee presented its 109th Report on the Bill to the House on 20.03.2018. The Ministry after examining the recommendations obtained approval of the Cabinet on 28.03.2018 for moving official amendments. Thereafter, the Bill is pending in the Lok Sabha.
Meanwhile, Hon’ble Supreme Court in its judgment dated 02.05.2016 issued directions to the Central Government to constitute an Oversight Committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of MCI till a new legislation comes in. In 2017, another Oversight Committee (OC) was set up with the approval of the Supreme Court after expiry of the one year term of the first OC. This OC was chaired by Dr V K Paul and included eminent doctors including Directors of AIIMS Delhi, PGI Chandigarh, NIMHANS. On 6th July 2018, OC cited instances of non-compliance of their instructions by MCI and said that MCI has not only misinterpreted orders of the Supreme Court but has also challenged the authority of OC. Subsequently all members of OC have resigned. In such circumstances when the Supreme Court mandated Oversight Committee is unable to function due to non-cooperation of MCI and the NMC Bill is pending in Parliament and its passage is likely to take some time, certain immediate steps are required to be taken. Accordingly, an ordinance to supersede the MCI has been promulgated and the powers of the council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG).
The BoG will continue to perform till a Council is constituted as per the provision of the Act in one year time. It may be recalled that a Board of Governors was also appointed in 2010. Now, the government has appointed the Board of Governors in supersession of MCI. The Board members include persons of eminence in the medical field namely Dr V K Paul, Member, NITI Aayog, Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, AIIMS, New Delhi, Dr Jagat Ram, Director, PGIMER, Chandigarh, Dr B N Gangadhar, Director, NIMHANS, Bangalore, Dr Nikhil Tandon, Professor, Department of Endocrinology & Metabolism, AIIMS, New Delhi who were the members of second OC. Dr S. Venkatesh, DGHS and Prof.Balram Bhargava, Secretary, DHR & Director General ICMR will be the ex-officio members. All the BoG members are eminently qualified and apolitical. Further, five of the seven members were the members of the Supreme Court appointed Oversight Committee. It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and the much required reforms in the field of medical education and promote access to quality healthcare for all the people of India, Nadda said. – PIB