November 25, 2009

Goodbye MCI? Bill on health education watchdog NCHRH ready

The draft Bill to set up the National Council for Human Resource in Health (NCHRH) -- the overarching regulatory body for the health sector, that would replace the existing Medical, Dental, Nursing and Pharma Councils of India -- is now ready.

Moving swiftly to establish the NCHRH as a way to cleanse the already tainted medical education system in the country, the health ministry has finalized the draft Bill and opened it for public scrutiny. States have also been sent the Bill for their comments following which it will be taken to the law ministry and the Cabinet.

A 12-member task force set up to form the NCHRH under the chairmanship of the Union health secretary in June, in its report to the ministry, said that while India was one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it was also one of the weakest performers in health. The estimated density of health workers is 20% lesser that the WHO norm of 2.5 workers (doctors, nurses and midwifes) per 1,000 population.

According to the task force, there are important distortions in the production of health workers in India. It said that while there has been an increase in the number of medical colleges in the last decade, it has been due to increase in private medical colleges in the southern states.

"Private medical colleges also place a heavy burden of fee on students and their admission procedures are not transparent. The curricula of the medical schools are not designed for producing social physicians. Rather the training they provide is better suited to the problems of urban India and for employment in corporate hospitals," the task force report said.

This is why the ministry is going all out to set up the NCHRH, the idea of which was first floated by President Pratibha Patil.

The Bill says that the chairman of NCHRH should have at least 10 years experience in medical and health education or leadership of non-medical academic institutions imparting education in disciplines such as law, management and public administration.

The committee to chose the chairman will include the cabinet secretary, principal secretary to PM, Union health secretary and two other technical experts.

The Council will meet at least once every three months and will, among other things, give permission to establish new institutions or new courses of study, recognition or approval of courses, recognition of qualifications, recognition and disqualification of foreign degrees, prescribe standards of professional conduct and etiquette.

The single regulatory body will oversee the regulation of seven departments related to medicine, nursing, dentistry, rehabilitation and physiotherapy, pharmacy, public health/hospital management and allied health sciences.

According to the draft Bill, the Council will consist of the chairperson and four full-time members appointed by the Central government. They will hold office for three years. Every state will have separate bodies constituted by the Council for each department.

The Council will maintain a national register of human resources in health which will contain names of all persons who are enrolled by the Board.

The Council will also conduct a national level exit exam for super-speciality postgraduate students. The Council will be be an autonomous body independent of government controls.

Link: Original Article

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