The Medical Council of India (MCI) may be replaced with a National Medical Commission (NMC) for which the government is likely to table National Medical Commission Bill, 2016 soon.
The government is also likely to open the doors for profit making private companies to open medical colleges in the country in an attempt to increase the number of MBBS seats. At present, nearly 55,000 MBBS doctors pass out every year from different government and private medical colleges. There will also be “exit tests” for the MBBS pass-outs for getting the licence to practise medicine.
These are some of the measures recommended by a committee, constituted by the government, earlier this year. The committee, headed by NITI Aayog vice chairperson Arvind Panagariya, submitted its report this week. It has also drafted the National Medical Commission Bill, 2016.
As of now, a trust has to be formed for opening a medical college as only “not for profit” organisations are permitted to establish such colleges. The committee has suggested that the government should explicitly include a provision to permit “for profit” organisations to establish medical colleges.
“Given the shortage of doctors and the current ban on ‘for profit’ institutions has hardly prevented private institutions from extracting profits albeit through non-transparent and possibly illegal means, the committee felt that any restriction on the class of education providers would be counter-productive. Therefore there is a need to delink the condition for affiliation recognition from the nature of promote (sic) of the medical colleges,” the committee has noted in its report.
The committee has favoured setting up of a Medical Advisory Council (MAC) for regulation of medical education, which will have representation from the states and union territories.The medical fraternity has expressed its reservations over the recommendations. “It is good that the committee talks about increasing the number of seats by relaxing the norms for opening medical colleges. However, dissolving MCI is not good. We are against any corruption with the Council, but dissolving it is not the solution,” said Delhi Medical Association secretary Ashwani Goyal.
Another major suggestion of the committee is to provide for a statutory basis for common entrance examination for admission to undergraduate and post graduate courses in medical institutions so that there is a transparent admission process based on merit rather than the ability to pay capitation fees. The committee has suggested a National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for the intake of students.
The committee has also favoured a Common Licentiate Examination (exit examination) for practice by medical professionals after completion of the MBBS course.
On the issue of charging capitation fees by private colleges, the committee has recommended that the NMC may be empowered to fix norms for regulating the fees for a proportion of seats (not exceeding 40% of the total seats) in private medical colleges. For the rest, the institution may be given full freedom to charge the fees that they deem appropriate.
The country faces an acute shortage of doctors. As per the Medical Council of India (MCI) records, there are 9.29 lakh doctors in the Indian Medical register till March 2014. Assuming 80% availability, it is estimated that around 7.4 lakh doctors may be actually available for active service.
The government, in March this year, had constituted the committee under the chairmanship of Panagariya to examine all aspects of the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956 and suggest reforms leaded to improved outcomes in medical education. Other members of the committee included P.K. Mishra (Additional Principal Secretary to Prime Minister), Amitabh Kant (CEO, NITI Aayog) and B.P. Sharma (Health Secretary).