After facing flak from the medicos regarding a provision in the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which proposes to grant limited licence to practise medicine at mid-level as Community Health Provider, the Health Ministry in a statement said the move is an interim option as "It will take 7-8 years to ramp up the supply of doctors" for the ambitious Ayushman Bharat initiative announced by the Government needs 1,50,000 mid-level providers within the next 3-5 years to provide comprehensive primary and preventive care.
The ministry also said this is "merely an enabling provision to grant limited licence only in primary and preventive healthcare to practice medicine at mid-level to such persons, who qualify such criteria as may be specified by regulations which will have an overwhelming representation of Doctors".
Rajya Sabha passed the NMC Bill on August 1 for replacing the corruption-plagued Medical Council of India (MCI) with a new body, in what was described by the government as one of the biggest reforms for medical education in the country.
Earlier, responding to the controversial provisions in NMC Bill, a section of health practitioners had said licencing of 3.5 lakh unqualified non-medical persons to practise modern medicine and the term Community Health Provider has been vaguely defined to allow anyone connected with modern medicine to get registered in NMC and be licensed to practise modern medicine.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has given a strike call on August 8 to protest against certain provisions of the NMC Bill.
Along with other provisions, the medical fraternity is opposing sections 32(1), (2) and (3) of the bill, saying it will encourage quackery by providing licence to practise modern medicine as community health providers to those who do not possess the MBBS degree.
"India has a doctor-population ratio of 1:1456 as compared with the WHO standards of 1:1000. In addition, there is a huge skew in the distribution of doctors working in the Urban and Rural areas with the urban to rural doctor density ratio being 3.8:1. Consequently, most of our rural and poor population is denied good quality care leaving them in the clutches of quacks," the ministry said in a statement.
"It is worth noting that at present 57.3% of personnel currently practicing allopathic medicine does not have a medical qualification," it said.
The statement also cited international examples of Health Systems permitting such Community Health workers.
"Countries such as Thailand, United Kingdom, China, and even New York have permitted Community Health Workers/Nurse Practitioners into mainstream health services, with improved health outcomes," it said.
The ministry also the task shifting to Mid-level Provider will relieve the overburdened specialists since the country has shortage of doctors and specialists.
"Chhattisgarh and Assam have experimented with the Community Health Workers. As per independent evaluations (carried out by Harvard School of Public Health), they have performed very well and there is no ground of concern if the quality of personnel is regulated tightly," the statement from the ministry said.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) has given a strike call on August 8 to protest against certain provisions of the NMC Bill. It said medical students would continue with their strike across the country under the IMA Medical Students Network.
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