Doctors hold nationwide strike against NMC bill, withdraw emergency services

Resident and junior doctors protest against the introduction of National Medical Commission bill in Rajya Sabha at All India Institute Of Medical Sciences flyover in New Delhi on Thursday

Resident doctors at government hospitals, including AIIMS and Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi, went on "indefinite" strike from 8 am to protest the National Medical Commission Bill, which is to be tabled in the Rajya Sabha today and will replace the existing Indian Medical Council Act of 1956.

"I can say with utmost confidence and sincerity the NMC Bill which has already been passed by Lok Sabha is the biggest reform in recent time in the field of medical education brought by the blessing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi", Harsh Vardhan said.

"If the bill gets passed in the Rajya Sabha, we will intensify our protests", said Prakash Thakur of the Residents Doctors Association at Safdarjung Hospital.

A meeting between Union health minister Harsh Vardhan and a delegation of resident doctors of various hospitals was now underway.

Another group of doctors, associated with Federation of Resident Doctors' Association (FORDA), who had planned to march to Parliament from RML Hospital, were prevented from venturing out, FORDA's general secretary Dr Sunil Arora claimed. The doctors also question the vague term "persons connected with the modern scientific medical profession".

Further ICUs will also be managed with the help of sponsored residents/pool officers and faculty members.

Hospitals in the national capital put in place contingency plans as regular services were severely affected.

Routine surgeries were cancelled and only emergency cases were being performed at several facilities, authorities said.

The Association of Resident Doctors of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (ARD PGI), Chandigarh on Friday said that all services except Emergency and ICU will be withdrawn from Saturday for an indefinite period.

The Indian Medical Association (IMA) fears that all paramedics, including pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, optometrists and others, will become eligible to practise medicine and prescribe medicines independently.

The protesting doctors have called the NMC Bill anti-poor and anti-student.

"The provisions of the said bill are nothing short of draconian and promote gross incompetence and mockery of professionals now working day and night and sacrificing their youth for this broken system", the doctors had earlier said in a joint statement.

"The amendments preferred by the Rajya Sabha are partial remedy to only one of the demands". The bill will be again sent to the Lok Sabha for approval.

The protesting doctors have alleged that the NMC Bill will only give a boost to quacks.

As per the provisions of the bill, after completing a bridge course, Unani and Ayurveda doctors can prescribe allopathy medicines. According to them, if not amended, the bill will lead to deterioration of medical education and degradation of healthcare services.

The Commission will also make guidelines for determination of fees for up to 50 percent of the seats in private medical institutions and deemed universities.

"The autonomy and pride of the entire medical fraternity has been surrendered to the whims and fancies of politicians and bureaucrats even as the Union health minister is a doctor himself", AIIMS RDA president Amarinder Singh Malhi and president of its students' union Mukul Kumar had said in a joint statement.

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