Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan took to Twitter on Monday to express his delight with the “widespread support” allegedly shown by doctors in response to the introduction of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill in the Lok Sabha. However, standing in front of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) office in Bengaluru, it is blatantly evident that the truth is far from the minister's claim: several doctors around the country in a show of opposition to the bill have taken to shutting down outpatient departments and non-emergency services.
“There are so many issues with the NMC which aren’t being addressed. We know that there were serious corruption charges against the Medical Council of India (MCI) which is why it was dissolved and the NMC even introduced in the first place. But there are so many other issues which this bill has brought up. It would’ve been better if some changes were made with regards to the MCI rather than introduce a new commission altogether,” states Dr Jyothi, in charge of the Medical Student Network of the IMA’s Karnataka chapter.
Burning of NMC Bill at IMA protest in Bengaluru
She is one among several doctors across the country who stood with the IMA and took to protesting on Wednesday following the passing of the NMC bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday, July 29.
While elective services were shut down in protest, emergency services remained in function nationwide.
In Kerala, the protests affected both private and state run hospitals."The outpatient department in our hospital as well as in other private hospitals are closed, even though we are giving the desired medical attention to in-patients," said one senior doctor to IANS. While several private medical colleges remained closed in view of a public holiday, doctors working at state run hospitals and colleges turned up to work wearing black badges to showcase their support for the protests.
Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association protesting on Wednesday
Speaking to the media on Wednesday, Dr Sulphi Noohu, Kerala State Secretary of the IMA said that as the first phase of protest some of the medical students in the state will begin a hunger strike outside the Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram from 6 pm on Wednesday onwards. “We will resist this move to produce 3 and a half lakh fake doctors in the country at any cost. If the bill is passed on Thursday, then it will be a dark chapter in the history of modern medicine,” said Dr Noohu.
Doctors across Tamil Nadu, from Chennai, Trichy and Coimbatore, also took to closing down all non-emergency hospital services. Several doctors and medical students from Coimbatore Medical College took to protesting against the bill. A group of doctors from Madras Medical College (MMC) in Chennai, led by the Federation of Government Doctors’ Association (FoGDA) and the IMA too showed their vehement opposition to the bill by protesting.
Doctors protesting at Madras Medical College
While there were initial reports of patients being left without access to medical care at NIMS Hospital in Hyderabad, TNM was able to confirm that those who required urgent attention were able to avail the necessary care.
Junior Doctors Association (JUDA) protesting in Telangana
The National Medical Commission Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday. It will oversee functionalities of medical education. Doctors have been opposing the NMC since its introduction in 2017, with several having given suggested amendments to the bill, none of which have been implemented at the time.
Protest held at Telangana's Siddipet district
(With inputs from Korah Abraham, Balakrishna Ganeshan, and IANS)