New Delhi: The pan-India strike by doctors on Tuesday to protest the National Medical Commission Bill has hit medical services across the country, with private hospitals and nursing homes shutting OPDs.
The protest, called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA), has been supported by various establishments.
Madhya Pradesh was hit hard by the strike. In Bhopal, more than 250 private hospitals and nursing homes shut their OPDs for the day. Clinics were empty in Karnataka and Kerala too.
The state chapter of IMA in Karnataka extended full support to the strike and shut services with an exception being given to emergency services, casualties and operation theatres. Officials from the Karnataka IMA unit told CNN-News18 that the Private Hospitals & Nursing Homes Association(PHANA) has left it to individual doctors to decide whether they want to participate in the protest or not.
In Manipal Hospital, doctors have been given the option of taking the day off. In Lucknow, starting 1:30 pm, there is expected to be a big protest at the gates of King George Medical Hospital, wherein both government and private doctors will be participating.
In Maharashtra, as most medical services were shut, officials at IMA’s state unit said the central government had left them with no option.
Even as doctors across the country observed a strike, President of IMA, Dr Ravi Wankhedkar, along with a group of other doctors, met MPs to oppose the Bill. The association has already met Sharad Pawar, Ram Vilas Paswan and expressed their concern over the Bill.
IMA has concerns about the new Bill replacing the Medical Council of India. Doctors from IMA Karnataka told CNN News18 that making a doctor sit for an exam to get a licence was unnecessary.
Further, the fact that the Bill allows those practicing alternate medicine to extend their practice to allopathy by simply doing a bridge course has also raised concerns among the medical fraternity. “But there are vested interests behind this protest. One must realise that it is imperative that we spread proper medical care across the country,” a source said.
The West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) strongly opposed the National Medical Commission Bill (NMCB) but kept its services open.
Speaking to News18, Chairman of WBMC, Dr Nirmal Maji, said, “We will be protesting. This move will be devastating as this could help quacks to get into the medical system just by passing a bridge course. Unlike other states, we have decided to open emergency services, ICU, ICCU in all the government and private hospitals in Bengal because we don’t want patient parties to run helplessly for treatment.”
West Bengal Chapter of Association of Surgeons of India (ASI), Chairman, Dr. Somnath Ghosh, said, “The National Medical Commission Bill will have an adverse effect on doctors as well the patients. I personally feel that there is no need for such Bill.”
Sources in the government have, however, told CNN News18 that all stakeholders, including the IMA, were consulted well in advance and that the Bill has been in discussion for long. Sources further said the inclusion of Ayush doctors in the Bill was the prime bone of contention that has led private doctors protesting the Bill.
Renowned cardiologist and founder of Narayana Hrudalaya, Devi Shetty, told CNN-News18 that the doctors were not opposing everything in the Bill. “It is a huge one. They are opposing certain clauses. Even doctors feel that time has come for a radical change in the system the way medical practice is regulated in the country,” he said.
Dismissing the fears of some doctors and IMA that the proposed NMC which will replace the existing IMC can also become corrupt, he said, “It all depends on who is at the helm. A good person helming a bad Bill can make it good. A bad person helming a good one can make it bad”.
Dr. Shetty said that the Centre had held detailed talks with the representatives of the doctors before preparing the draft Bill. He said “only the doctors prepared it. There were also bureaucrats. It is not an entirely a government Bill”. He added that he was also consulted by the Centre about the proposed Bill.