IMA calls off protests after govt sends NMC bill to Standing Committee

New Delhi/Thiruvananthapuram: Healthcare services at multiple hospitals across the country were partially disrupted on Tuesday when doctors went on a strike in protest against the controversial National Medical Commission Bill.

The emergency and critical care departments at the hospitals, however, functioned normally, according to reports from the states. The reports also said that doctors at several hospitals wore black badges at work. The situation eased later in the day when the 12-hour nationwide stir called by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) from 6 am was called off after the Centre agreed to refer the proposed legislation to a parliamentary standing committee. The bill had triggered wide protests from doctors as also the opposition parties.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill, which was tabled in Parliament on Friday, seeks to replace the Medical Council of India(MCI) and also proposes allowing practitioners of alternative medicines, such as homoeopathy and ayurveda, practise allopathy after completing a "bridge course".

"We called off our strike as the Bill has been referred to a Parliamentary Standing Committee which has members from diverse fields and there should now be a fruitful discussion," said IMA's KK Aggarwal, who was spearheading the stir.

Terming the Bill as "anti-people and anti-patient", the IMA has stated that the bill purported to eradicate corruption is "designed to open the floodgates of corruption."

Earlier in the day, Union Health Minister JP Nadda said in Parliament that talks were on with the IMA to clear their doubts.

"Talks are on. We have heard them (the doctors) and also presented our views," he said. "This (Bill) is beneficial to the medical profession," Nadda said in the Rajya Sabha after the members raised the issue of strike by the doctors across the country. The strike by doctors in Kerala caused immense hardship to those visiting hospitals across the state.

While doctors in government and medical college hospitals boycotted out-patient services for one hour in the morning, the strike was observed for a longer duration in private hospitals.

The doctors, however, attended emergency cases and those admitted in hospitals. Expressing anger over the stir, a 60-year old man told a television channel that it was irresponsible on the part of doctors to go on strike causing hardship to patients.

Similar sentiments were echoed by several patients from different hospitals across the state. Healthcare services were partially affected in parts of Odisha as doctors joined the strike.

A protest rally organised from Power House Chhak to Raj Bhavan in Bhubaneswar saw the participation of medical students and doctors in large numbers.

Dhananjay Das, a senior doctor at government-run Capital Hospital in Bhubaneswar, said the bill, if passed, will upset the medical fraternity in the country.

"The bill will bring down the standards of medical education in the country. It will be a big blow to the entire medical fraternity…" he said. The general secretary of the Odisha chapter of the IMA, Janmejaya Mohapatra, said the strike has affected healthcare services in outpatient departments of a few government and private hospitals, but the emergency and critical departments were functioning normally.

West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) chairman Dr Nirmal Maji said healthcare services remained largely normal across the state. "This is a Tughlaqi decision. This is a dangerous move and may ruin the medical system in the country. The bill will be a boost for quack doctors," Maji told PTI.

"I have spoken to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee this morning and she has given instructions for ensuring normal services. And our doctors, unlike some other states, are not skipping work. They are wearing black badges to work as a mark of protest," Maji said.

A protest rally, organised in Kolkata after OPD hours, witnessed the participation of doctors affiliated to the IMA's state unit and WBMC in large numbers.

Earlier in the day, patients visiting the city from the suburban areas complained that they were made to wait for long hours. "I have come all the way from Sundarbans for an appointment with a cardiologist. I collected my ticket as early as 9.30 am but was made to wait for several hours," 73-year-old cardiac patient Pritilata Sammadar told PTI outside NRS Medical College and Hospital.

The scene was similar at other city hospitals this morning, where patients were seen queuing up outside the orthopaedic department.


Updated Date: Jan 02, 2018 19:22 PM

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