The Medical Council of India (MCI) has been taken to task by a parliamentary panel recently for failing in its responsibility of setting up high standards in health care. In fact, the parliamentary standing committee on Health and Family Welfare has some harsh words for the MCI in its report, calling it ‘a club of influential medical practitioners’. The current composition of the MCI does not represent ‘professiol excellence nor follows medical ethos’, rather it reflects that more than half of the members are ‘either from corporate hospitals or in private practice’ — so says the report. What is more, the panel is unsparing of its criticism of Central and state governments in nomiting to the MCI — doctors from corporate private hospitals which not only provide care at exorbitant cost, but also indulge in ‘unethical practices such as carrying out unnecessary diagnostic tests and surgical procedures in order to extract money from hapless patients and meet revenue targets and flouting government rules and regulations, especially about treating patients from underprivileged backgrounds’. Calling upon the Union Health Ministry to nullify an amendment pushed through by the MCI in February this year, the Professor Ram Gopal Yadav led panel says that exempting professiol associations of doctors from ethics regulations has legitimized practices like receiving gifts in cash or kind from the pharmaceutical and allied health industry. The lack of transparency in medical college inspection, the arbitrary selection of ‘serial inspectors’ from states like Gujarat and Bihar despite the availability of hundreds of faculty members from 183 government medical colleges, and the enormous scope for scams in the entire process have been highlighted in the hard-hitting report. Its observation that 63 million people in the country are faced with poverty every year due to health care costs, indicating that ‘health care is moving away from the reach of the people in general and the poor in particular’ — will surely ring a bell in Assam as well.
MCI under scanner