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NMC Bill: AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals call for indefinite strike from Thursday

The strike comes on the same day when the Bill will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The Outpatient Department (OPD) and emergency services are likely to be hampered due to the strike.

NMC Bill: AIIMS and Safdarjung hospitals call for indefinite strike from Thursday

Intensifying its protests against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, the doctors of All India Institute Of Medical Science (AIIMS) and Safdarjung Hospital in the national capital has called for an indefinite strike to be observed from Thursday.

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Amid widespread protests from the medical community, the Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Bill and Health Minister Harsh Vardhan called it one of the greatest reforms ushered in by the Narendra Modi government. 

The indefinite strike comes on the same day when the Bill will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha. The Outpatient Department (OPD) and emergency services are likely to be hampered due to the strike.

In a letter, the Resident Doctors' Association of VMMC and Safdarjung Hospital wrote that they will withdraw all hospital services-including Emergency services and go on an indefinite strike from 9 am.

The NMC Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha on July 29 seeks to create the National Medical Commission (NMC) in place of Medical Council of India (MCI). The Bill also proposes a common final-year MBBS examination, known as National Exit Test (NEXT), for admission to post-graduate medical courses and for obtaining a license to practice medicine.

Besides this, the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), common counselling and NEXT would be applicable to institutes of national importance like AIIMS in order to achieve a common standard in medical education in the country. The Bill was passed with 260 members voting in its favour and 48 against it.

The letter further read, "The medical fraternity across the country feels betrayed by the so-called leaders who have given their assent for a poorly drafted bill that will have detrimental effects on the future of health-care of the nation. We strongly oppose the provisions mentioned as follows:- 1) Uncertainty on entrance exam for Post-graduate courses/ NEXT; 2) Providing Limited License to practice modem medicine as Community Health Providers for persons other than those possessing M.B.B.S degrees; 3) Undue favour to the Private Medical College, Unaided Universities by decreasing the percentage of seats under controlled fees structure from 85, to 50%; 4) Decreasing the representation of elected members from 75, in MCI to 20% in National Medical Commission; 5) Power of Central Government to override the decisions/ recommendations of National Medical Cornrnission and Autonomous Boards constituted there-under."

"As the present Government seems least bother. to even consider amending the aforementioned clauses, we RDA Safdarjuntg Hospital have no choice but to resort to withdraw all Hospital services-including Emergency services and go on an indefinite strike w.e.f. 09:00 a.m., tomorrow i.e. on 1st August, 2019," the letter further added.

Doctors across the country went on a 24-hour medical strike from 6 am on Wednesday, withdrawing all non-essential services. The Indian Medical Association (IMA) called for the strike in protest against the passage of the Bill.

While the Centre has called the NMC bill a game-changer set to transform medical education and services in India, many members of the medical fraternity disagree.

One of the primary concerns over the NMC Bill is that it will give a boost to quacks and quackery practitioners in rural areas. Doctors claim, under Section 32 of the NMC bill, nearly 3.5 lakh community health providers – mostly quacks-- would be legalised to prescribe drugs.

The doctors' fraternity also termed the Bill anti-poor and anti-public since making NEXT mandatory before NEET can reduce the chances of people from economically weaker section entering the medical sector.