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National Medical Commission Bill: IMA Defers Protest

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has deferred its August 8, 2019 strike against the National Medical Commission Bill till “a later date of choice”.

Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Harsh Vardhan met IMA President Santanu Sen and other office bearers on August 5. He addressed their concerns regarding the National Exit Test (NEXT), said IMA secretary RV Asokan.

But, since the concerns regarding community health providers (CHP) remain, they would strike sometime later, he added.

The IMA secretary also said the association has decided to take the public into confidence before proceeding on the strike. “We have 1,700 IMA branches across India. We have to equip them with proper facts and figures on how they can help people understand that the concept of CHPs is going to harm them. These consultations would take some time,” said Asokan.

The strike was deferred since the current public mood is too much occupied with the political scenario and so it is difficult to engage people on the NMC issue, reasoned the IMA.

“The current political situation in Kashmir is not normal and, therefore, the J&K branch is unable to withdraw services as we had desired. Since we have to take them along, we have decided to defer the protest,” he said.

Former Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Sushma Swaraj’s demise is another reason the association cited.

One other factor also prompted them to go back at the moment. “At least four state-level branches have expressed their inability to go ahead with the strike. These comprise three flood-hit states — Maharashtra, Assam and Karnataka,” he said.

Bill-ed issues

The Bill proposes NEXT to be a single test with multiple-choice questions with no scope of clinical examination. It serves three purposes, according to the Bill, — final-year MBBS examination, a licentiate exam for getting permission to practise and entrance exam for admissions to post-graduate courses.

The Bill, however, has no scope for improvement if a student fails. Earlier, there existed an improvement exam for those who failed the final-year test.

“Now, the minister has agreed that the exit exam would also have practical papers to test clinical aptitude. The students would have one chance to repeat if they fail the exam,” Asokan told Down To Earth.

These changes may be made at the time of the gazetted notification of the Act, he said. This can only happen after the President’s assent. However, the minister did not say anything to them regarding community health providers mentioned in Section 32 of the Bill.

Divided opposition

The Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association and Resident Doctors’ Association, All India Institute of Medical Sciences had already called off the protest on August 4 midnight after meeting Vardhan earlier in the day.

Though their reservations regarding the Bill had not been addressed, the resident doctors were content with the minister’s assurance that they would be consulted as stakeholders when regulations are formed. The doctors’ associations also said they saw no point in joining IMA’s strike since it is “inconsistent with its calls”. – Down to Earth

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