Under pressure from the recent scathing report about Medical Council of India (MCI) corruption and recommendation to revamp the MCI by a multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare (PSC), prime minister’s office (PMO) has formed a 4-member panel to look into the serious issues raised in the PSC report and to take necessary measures to restructure MCI (see news report below). Ironically, all four members of the high-power panel are government insiders headed by Arvind Panagariya, supremo of National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog,governmental organization established by the prime minister, Narendra Modi, with the laudatory goal to eradicate corruption and transform India. One of the main recommendations in the PSC report was to bring “transparency” in order to build an honest and efficient healthcare regulatory system like the MCI. By excluding any member from the opposition political parties or from any independent non-governmental organizations like PBT, there is no reason to believe that the new government panel will act in a different manner to promote transparency and honesty to overhaul the healthcare system or stem the deep-rooted “rot” in the MCI.
In view of the PSC report that also recommended for immediate inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the MCI and state medical councils (SMCs), PBT submitted an urgent representation with the central health ministry last month urging them to take imminent steps to include “non-doctor” members in the medical councils as it is also a routine practice in the developed countries. Under the present system of doctor-only medical councils across India, corrupt and influential medical leaders of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) including the disgraced ex-MCI president, Dr. Ketan Desai and his medical cronies, have taken over the MCI and most SMCs as corruption has thrived with the standard of medical education continues to fall and incidence of medical negligence continues to rise as the medical councils function only to shield their errant colleagues without giving any heed to the pain and suffering of the hapless patients.
Almost one month has passed, health ministry has not even sent any response to our demand for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils. Two separate public interest litigations (PILs) filed by the PBT against corruption inside the MCI and collusion between Dr. Ketan Desai and present MCI members are pending before the Supreme Court of India. If the health ministry remains silent to our demand for inclusion of “non-doctor” members in the medical councils, PBT would be compelled to move the third PIL before the Apex Court to change the abysmal status of our healthcare delivery system. But we still hope that prime minister would rise to this occasion by taking meaningful and stringent action against the pervasive medical corruption. Making another hog-washing new panel only with inside players in the most partisan and non-transparent fashion cannot build any confidence that MCI would become an honest body to protect the vulnerable patients anytime soon.