Bridge course at crossroadsDecember 13, 2018
Even though a Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi removed a provision from the National Medical Commission (NMC) Bill for a bridge course for AYUSH practitioners to practice modern medicine in March, allopathic medical practitioners under the Indian Medical Association (IMA) have approached the Gujarat High Court questioning a similar move by the state government.
Gujarat government issued an advertisement calling for applications for a six-month-long bridge course to permit those who completed Bachelor of Science (Nursing), Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) and General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) courses to practice modern medicine.
The court, observing that the same plea is pending before the State Health Department, asked the department to consider the IMA’s arguments on the matter.
IMA has been opposing the idea of replacing the Medical Council of India (MCI) from the time when the suggestion was made in the NMC Bill. It has also been raising an alarm on the potential dangers of allowing bridge courses for alternative medicine practitioners.
IMA’s stand against the practitioners of other systems of medicine practising allopathic medicine has been there for many years. “It is estimated that about 10 lakh quacks are practising allopathic medicine, out of which 4 lakh belong to practitioners of Indian Medicine (Ayurvedic, Siddha, Tibb and Unani),” states its anti-quackery wing on its website.
With doctors under the leadership of IMA announcing a strike against these decisions, the Union Cabinet had removed the provision dealing with bridge courses for AYUSH practitioners.
However, it had also said that it was “leaving it to state governments to take necessary measures for addressing and promoting primary health care in rural areas.”
The idea behind the decision go offer bridge courses was, in a way, to address the acute shortage of qualified allopathic doctors to attend to the underserved population, especially in rural areas. Infrastructure and availability of medical practitioners are crucial to the success of government’s prestigious national health scheme Ayushman Bharat Yojana.
According to a recent report by IndiaSpend, a public interest data journalism initiative, public health centres need 25,650 doctors to attend to a minimum of 40 patients per doctor per day for outpatient care across the country. But there is a shortage of 3,027 doctors, leaving 1,974 PHCs without doctors, which means almost 1,21,080 patients cannot meet a doctor for their health requirement every day.
While a section of allopathic medicine practitioners oppose bridge courses tooth and nail, another section from the same fraternity are of the view that making qualified healthcare professionals in the rural areas would help to address the healthcare need of the country and can also relieve doctors from undergoing compulsory rural practice. It could also address the issue of quacks and practitioners of other systems of medicines practising allopathic medicine and putting
the lives of people in rural
areas at risk.