March 12, 2011

MCI puts curbs on visits by foreign doctors

No foreign national or NRI medical professional will henceforth be permitted to demonstrate procedures/ surgeries in India without prior permission from the Medical Council of India. A warning to this effect has been circulated by MCI to all medical colleges/institutions, state medical councils, all medical associations and hospitals.

Clarifying that prior MCI permission/registration was mandatory, the February 11, 2011 circular, signed by MCI's additional secretary P Prasanna Raj, said suo motu action would be initiated by the MCI against erring medical colleges/institutions.

Aimed at verifying the credentials of foreign/NRI medical professionals participating in continuing medical education (CME) programmes or workshops or post-graduate courses in India, the circular said: ''This is to inform you that all foreign nationals/NRI faculty will have to take prior permission from the MCI in the prescribed form no. MCI-07 available on the website, if he/she demonstrates/conducts any procedure, intervention, surgery, drug therapy, application of any new device or any treatment, on a patient in any CME programmes/workshop/PG course or any other programme, conducted by medical college/ hospitals/ medical association or any other organisation in India.''

The announcement has evoked mixed reactions from the medical fraternity across the country. While some leading doctors agreed on the need to screen the bonafides of visiting medics, many felt that the proposal would needlessly hamper flow of knowhow and research findings into India.

Dr T D Naidu, president of the All India Medical Association and chairman, Chennai-based DD Medical Hospital and DD Hospital, welcomed the proposal and said verification of the bonafide of the foreign medical professionals by MCI would enhance credibility of the profession. ''Some medical institutions flaunt foreign faculty without conducting due diligence on the professional's standing and record in his home country," Naidu said.

He also called upon MCI to step in and play an active role in whetting the memorandum of understanding being signed by Indian medical institutions with foreign entities. "A representative of the MCI shall be part of the expert team finalizing the fine print of such MoU," he said.

While agreeing that prior permission was a must for performing surgeries or live demos on Indian patients, doctors and institute heads said the MCI circular was too restrictive. "What is wrong with foreign nationals or NRIs coming to give lectures or share valuable knowledge about the latest developments in medical field?" said founder-chairman of Frontier Lifeline hospitals, Dr K M Cherian.

"Nothing original in the field of medicine has come out of India. We depend solely on studies by our peers in other countries," he added.

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