Saturday, May 15, 2010

Interim board to oversee the corrupt Medical Council of India

A seven-member board of governors, which will take over the working of the Medical Council of India (MCI), plans to clean up the besmirched body. The Cabinet had cleared an ordinance on Thursday to put in place the board, comprising eminent persons nominated by the Ministry of Health. The ordinance is expected to be promulgated by the President in the next two days. Although broad agreements were reached at the Cabinet meeting, finer details were worked out at a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Friday. Names of potential members were also discussed. Dr. M. S. Valiathan, K. K. Venugopal and Devi Shetty could figure in the list.

The decision was taken in response to public sentiment and demand from the medical community for cleaning up the Council. The new body will function independently and devise systems to run MCI. It will take stock of the current working of the Council and make recommendations to the ministry on changes needed.

Governments hands-off approach will help restore credibility in the Council as there is a widespread feeling that there has been collusion between government nominees and the disgraced former MCI President Ketan Desai, who is presently in jail for accepting a bribe of Rs. 20 million.

The seven-member board will be in place for a year. In the period, MCI will be kept in abeyance, with all decisions taken by the board. The Ordinance does not propose disbanding of MCI. During the period, the Centre will finalise the legislation that will put in place an overarching regulatory authority to oversee medical education. Whether the body will be the National Council of Human Resources in Health under the health ministry or the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) under the Ministry of HRD will be decided after discussions between the two ministries and the Prime Minister's Office.

Irrespective of which regulatory authority has control over medical education, it is clear that the government proposes to separate regulation of education and medical practitioners. This would mean that the MCI will be a body that will deal with the issue of ethics in the profession, standards for practitioners and registration of medical professionals. It would regulate medical professionals, much like other professional councils such as the Bar Council of India. This separation would be in line with original mandate of the Medical Council of India, as it was set up in 1934 under the Indian Medical Council Act,1933.

This Act was repealed to make way for the Indian Medical Council Act, 1956, which brought medical education under the ambit of the Council. This was done is response to the fast-paced development of medical education in the country in the years immediately after Independence.

Source: The Economic Times, May 15, 2010

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