Elaborating on the provisions on Community Health Providers (CHPs) and debunking apprehensions being raised by critics of the NMC Act, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, said the government is looking at universal health coverage and universal screening of our population for non-communicable diseases in the years to come, and which requires a large number of health professionals. The clarification from the minister came in the background of protests by doctors and doctor organisations against the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill 2019, which was passed by both Houses of Parliament recently. Dispelling rumors about the provision giving a fillip to quackery the minister said the punishment for quackery has been enhanced to up to one year imprisonment and up to Rs 5 lakhs fine.
Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of doctors in the country, has on Wednesday appealed to the President to withhold assent to the Bill "until the dangers to the health of the nation accruing from several sections are adequately addressed". It said it has faith in the judiciary in correcting the aberrations in this "black law".
According to the Bill, the Commission may grant limited licence to practise medicine at mid-level as CHP "to such person connected with modern scientific medical profession who qualify such criteria as may be specified by the regulations".
"Doctors are a scarce resource in our country and need to be optimally utilized. They are indispensable for secondary and tertiary care; the only area where other health professionals can supplement them is preventive and primary healthcare," the minister said in a press conference here yesterday.
The Union Health Minister explained that as part of a pragmatic and forward looking measure in the NMC Act, in remote areas where doctors are not available, there will now be a health professional who can counsel the population, provide early warnings, treat elementary ailments, and provide early referral to a higher facility.
"The utility of such mid-level health providers has been confirmed by the WHO after studying their impact on healthcare in developed and developing countries. Even developed countries like USA, Canada and UK have mid-level providers like nurse practitioners", he added.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan also said the provision has been made in the NMC Act to register some CHPs who shall be modern medicine professionals and they shall not be dealing with any alternative system of medicine.
"Also, they will have limited powers for providing primary and preventive healthcare at the mid-level," he said.
He further stated that the eminent doctors in NMC shall decide their qualifications through regulations which shall be finalized after extensive public consultation and debate.
Dispelling rumors, fears and apprehensions about this provision giving a fillip to quackery in the country, he stated that: "A false impression is being created that the provision for CHPs has been made to legalize quacks. Nothing can be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the punishment for quackery has been enhanced to up to one year imprisonment and up to Rs 5 lakhs fine. The so-called quacks in the country do not possess any qualifications and would not be able to meet the conditions that will be set by NMC for becoming a CHP".
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