The National Medical Commission (NMC) Act is a student friendly initiative, said Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare while addressing media persons on the NMC Act 2019. After describing the NMC act as a "progressive legislation", the minister said it "will reduce the burden on students, ensure probity in medical education, bring down costs of medical education, simplify procedures, help to enhance the number of medical seats in India, ensure quality education, and provide wider access to people for quality healthcare".
"It is a game changing reform of transformational nature. I am sure that under the NMC, medical education in the country will attain its zenith in the years to come," he said.
He added that one of the mandates of NMC is to look at the cost of medical education.
It also provides for a common entrance examination for MBBS (NEET) along with common counseling for all medical institutions in the country.
"This provision will prevent seat blocking in parallel counseling processes and will eliminate the need for students to approach multiple colleges and take part in multiple counseling processes for admission," he said.
"This will save students and their families from unnecessary physical and financial trauma," he added.
NMC as an overarching body
The act proposes NMC as an overarching body, which will frame policies and co-ordinate the activities of four Autonomous Boards.
These Boards will look after the work of UG and PG education, Medical Assessment and Rating, and Ethics and Medical Registration.
"The purpose of having these four independent Boards is to ensure separation of functions between them", the Union Health Minister explained.
National Exit Test or NEXT
Elaborating on its features, Dr Harsh Vardhan stated that "Even in the current system, every student has to appear for a final year examination. Under the NMC Act, this final year examination has been converted into a nationwide exit test called NEXT. This single examination will grant i) a license to practice medicine, ii) an MBBS degree, and iii) entrance to postgraduate courses. Students will be able to concentrate on internship instead of spending all their time preparing for entry into PG courses and thus the burden on students will be greatly reduced. The same examination will also serve as licentiate exam for foreign graduates".
The new act provides a provision for common counseling for entrance to PG courses also.
Students will be able to get admission to seats in all medical colleges and to Institutes of National Importance like AIIMS, PGI Chandigarh and JIPMER through a single counseling process.
The Act does not impose any restriction on the number of attempts at NEXT examination, a ministry statement said.
"A singularly outstanding feature of the NMC Act is that it provides for regulation of fees and all other charges in 50% seats in private colleges as well as Deemed to be Universities. This is a welcome step in the direction of regulation of the cost of medical education", stated Dr Harsh Vardhan.
He added that there was no provision to regulate fees in the Indian Medical Council Act 1956.
Nearly 50% of the total MBBS seats in the country are in government colleges, which have nominal fees. Of the remaining seats, 50% would be regulated by NMC. This means that almost 75% of total seats in the country would be available at reasonable fees. It must be stressed again at this point that not only fees, but fees and all other charges are being regulated.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that "The need to regulate fees varies from state to state depending on the number of private colleges already available. In the spirit of a vibrant and healthy federal polity, instead of the Centre abrogating the power to regulate fees for 100% of the seats available in the private sector, under this progressive Act, States have the power to take a view regarding the extent to which fee regulation needs to take place. They would now have the freedom to sign MOUs with medical colleges on the basis of mutual understanding as before. In addition, since the NMC Act has a provision for fees regulation, they will have the authority to come up with state amendments regarding regulation of fees for the remaining 50% seats".
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