Centre moves to integrate allopathy with AYUSH: IMA sees red

December 5, 2020 0 By FM

With the union government moving ahead with its plan to integrate all systems of medicine, the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the largest body of allopathic practitioners in the country, is planning to oppose the move tooth and nail. In the latest development, the Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM), the statutory body that regulates Indian medical systems, has allowed post-graduate doctors of Shalya and Shalakya to perform general surgery, orthopaedics, ophthalmology, ENT and dental procedures after formal training.

IMA has come out sharply against the move. The association said that it unequivocally condemns the uncivil ways of CCIM to arrogate itself to vivisect modern medicine and empower its practitioners with undeserving areas of practice. “IMA has no objections to the list of vernacular terms the council has used. But they have no right to the technical terms, techniques and procedures of modern medicine,” stated IMA. It exhorted the council to develop their own surgical disciplines from their own ancient texts and not claim the surgical disciplines of modern medicine as its own.

The association of allopathic doctors has demanded the government refrain from posting any modern medicine doctor in colleges of Indian medicine. “IMA sees this development as a retrograde step of mixing systems, which will be resisted at all costs. All over India, students and practitioners of modern medicine have been agitated over the violation of mutual identity and respect. The order should be withdrawn,” said Dr R V Asokan, Secretary-General, IMA.

Only select procedures: Ayush ministry

After the criticism, Ministry of Ayush clarified that the notification is specific to 58 surgical procedures and did not allow Shalya and Shalakya postgraduates to take up any other types of surgery.

The ministry denied the allegations that the move signifies a policy shift on the practice of surgical procedures by ayurvedic practitioners. “No, this notification is a clarification of the relevant provisions in the previously existing regulations of 2016. Since the beginning, Shalya and Shalakya are independent Departments in ayurveda colleges, performing such surgical procedures. While the notification of 2016 stipulated that the students shall undergo training of investigative procedures, techniques and surgical performance of procedures and management in the respective specialty, the details of these techniques, procedures and surgical performance were laid down in the syllabus of the respective PG courses issued by CCIM, and not the regulation per se,” clarified the ministry.

The ministry also clarified that all scientific advances including standardized terminologies are inheritances of the entire mankind. “No individual or group has a monopoly over these terminologies. The modern terminologies in the field of medicine are not modern from a temporal perspective but are derived substantially from ancient languages like Greek,
Latin and even Sanskrit, and later languages like Arabic,” the ministry stated.

IMA has decided to intensify its protests after Niti Aayog recently formed four committees — in the areas such as medical education, clinical practice, public health and medical research and administration — for integrating all the systems of medicine. According to the association, the theoretical basis of the policy emanated from the new National Education Policy, which envisages “mixing up” of all systems of medicines under the garb of medical pluralism, allowing multiple entries and exit in medical courses and abolishing dedicated health universities.

Millions of lives at risk: IMA warns

IMA warned that the move to form ‘Khichdi Medical System’ will put millions of lives at risk. The medical fraternity of the country is highly perturbed by the recent policy changes regarding medical education practice, research and administration, said the association in a statement, adding that the radical changes that are being institutionalized will have a serious impact on the health of the people in the country. “The move is not good for the patients. IMA has taken upon itself a campaign to sensitize people on the dangers of shifting to an integrative system of medicine,” said Dr Asokan. He added that IMA is in consultation with various associations of allopathic doctors to draw up a protest plan.

“IMA is against mixing up different systems of medicine. Millions of lives will be lost before any rectification can be made. IMA stands for the purity of systems of modern medicine as well as Ayush. It is not in the interest of traditional systems either to lose their identity and further development. At present, a patient has the choice to choose either modern medicine or alternative system as per their wish. But the envisaged Khichdi medical system will provide only hybrid doctors and the choice of the patient is effectively nullified,” said Dr Asokan.

Dr Asokan further said that the move is to increase the doctor-patient ratio at the cost of patients. “The country has 10 lakh ayurveda doctors. But they are not included in the doctor-patient ratio by the WHO. The government move is to increase the ratio even though it’s not good for the patients,” he said.

IMA stated the medical students of the country are also concerned about their career and future. IMA Medical Students Network, which has its presence in 287 medical colleges, has joined hands with it in the campaign against quackery, mixopathy and crosspathy, said IMA.

“The move to integrate all the systems of medicine will result in nothing but chaos. All the systems have their own grace, place and importance. It has already led to a lot of stress and trauma to the medical students and they are concerned about their future, including job and higher studies, along with the major changes in their curriculum and entrance and exit exams. A medical aspirant spends all his/her childhood and youth working hard to get ranks in cut-throat all India entrance level exams to qualify for MBBS and manage a seat, then studies day and night, away from
home, brushing up skills and acquiring hard earned knowledge to finally be eligible to stand between someone’s life and death and do the right thing by saving lives. Does merit have no value?” said Dr Simrran Kalra, National Secretary, IMA- Medical Students Network (MSN).

Dr Kalra added that there are so many specialisations and systems and they have their own roles. “Trying to make them one is only complicating not just the curriculum for students and putting them under pressure, but also not valuing the merit and filter that a student goes through,” she said.

Beneficial for patients: Homeopath

Meanwhile, Dr Kushal Banerjee, a Delhi-based homeopathic practitioner, termed the move as a very encouraging and welcome change. “It acknowledges the pluralistic choices exercised by the people of India when seeking healthcare services and allows for practitioners of different systems to work in cohesion towards the health of the patient.” However, he cautioned that it should be done carefully so that the public health care system is efficient and clear in the options that it provides while safeguarding the interests and health of the patient.

Dr Banerjee pointed out that acknowledging and providing different systems of medicine as options to the patient will benefit them. “If the patient is able to openly talk to different physicians about other forms of medicines, it will result in transparency and reduced confusion. Doctors themselves will be better placed to understand how other systems may be more beneficial for the patient and recommend seeking advice from practitioners of other systems. A better understanding of other systems of medicines will reduce skepticism and acceptance of the advantages of various complementary systems amongst doctors,” he said.

While talking about IMA’s opposition to integration, Dr Banerjee admitted that there are some concerns that should be discussed and addressed. However, he said that arguing against an integrated system in any form does not reflect the choices and needs of the Indian patient. AYUSH systems like ayurveda and homeopathy are adept at addressing several conditions for which there is very little to be offered by conventional medicine. “There is a large patient population in India which is unable to afford conventional medicines while homeopathic medicines, for example, are an inexpensive option,” he said.