Doctors unite to seek major overhaul of MCI

Doctors across the country came together on Friday to demand the resignation of the leaders of the much-derided Medical Council of India and the scrapping of the Indian Medical Council Act.

Senior doctors and public health organisations such as Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, the Medico Friend Circle, and Indian Doctors for Ethical Practice, among others, have banded together in the wake of the scathing Parliamentary Standing committee Report on the MCI.

The report, which came out in March this year said the body had failed its mandate of overseeing medical ethics and education in the country. It also called for an overhaul of the workings of the MCI. Additionally, the Supreme Court, on 2 May, appointed a three-member oversight committee for the council, calling into question its ability to function unsupervised.

The National Coalition for Restructuring of Medical Regulation in India, that has emerged from a consultation held on 4 May in the capital, has called for the resignation of the entire leadership on "moral grounds" and that the Indian Medical Council Act be replaced by a new law that would effectively "curb corruption in medical education and to promote ethics in the medical profession". It has also picked on the "silence" of the health ministry so far, asking for a "public stand" and "decisive action".

The coalition tried and failed to meet the union health minister on 5 May. However, they will write to the Prime Minister's Office and the Niti Aayog with their concerns.

Dr Abhay Shukla, part of the consultation and co-author of Dissenting Diagnosis, a book on malpractice in private healthcare, told DNA newspaper that for almost seven years now there had been scattered efforts to oppose medical corruption.

He gave examples of the doctors present in the consultation, Dr KV Babu from Kerala who had opposed MCI's endorsement of PepsiCo products, his co-author Dr Arun Gadre who had been fighting corruption in Maharashtra, Dr Grewal and Dr Mitra from the Punjab Medical Council who have been taking up the issue of ghost doctors -- those present on payrolls but physically absent from clinics and the field. Since all these voices were isolated they were suppressed by the MCI, said Shukla.

This coalition is the first effort in bringing them together, the trigger for which has been the Parliamentary report, Jashodhara Dasgupta, a public health activist with the Medico Friends Circle said dna. Those involved with the consultation spoke of the need for such a platform to counter the MCI's "political clout".

The MCI became particularly notorious in 2010, when it had to be dissolved after its then president Dr Ketan Desai was arrested by the CBI for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs2 crore to grant recognition to a medical college in Punjab. Dr Desai is currently the head of the World Medical Association.

Dasgupta said that there would be a campaign to being the report up for discussion in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament. She added that it was important on civil society bodies to take this campaign forward now as the stakes were "enormous".