The British Medical Journal (BMJ) in its latest issue has called for a ‘radical prescription’ to reform the Medical Council of India (MCI) in order to eliminate corruption and lack of ethics in healthcare.
Referring to several observations in the parliamentary standing committee report submitted in the Rajya Sabha in March, the BMJ says in its editorial to be released on Thursday that the parliamentary panel lays bare the MCI’s failure to oversee quality and integrity in health services in the country.
The parliamentary standing committee in its report criticised the MCI for being a “biased” organisation, acting “against larger public health goals.” It described the Council as an “exclusive club” of medical doctors from corporate hospitals and private practice.
Kickbacks & capitation fee
The committee called for extensive reforms in the MCI and removal of roadblocks to the Common Medical Entrance Test for admission to MBBS and PG courses. It stated that admission should be granted on “merit” and “not the ability to pay a capitation fee.”
The editorial comes against the backdrop of a campaign against corruption in the health sector, launched by BMJ in 2014, that sparked global debate. The journal published articles on kickbacks for referrals from doctors, revenue targets at corporate hospitals, and capitation fees in private medical colleges in India.
In the latest BMJ editorial, Dr. Samiran Nundy, Dean of Sir Ganga Ram Institute for Postgraduate Medical Education and Research states that the MCI has “failed to create a rigorous transparent system for accrediting medical colleges, leading to geographical mal-distribution and creation of ‘ghost faculties’ in private medical colleges.”
The editorial has been co-authored by Sanjay Nagral, consultant surgeon at Jaslok Hospital and Anita Jain, BMJ’s research editor.
The authors of the BMJ editorial laud the parliamentary committee report stating that it “is a landmark in identifying factors that have led to the current scenario and apportions equal responsibility to the Health Ministry for letting things come to this….”
The MCI was established under the Indian Medical Council Act 1933 and given responsibility for maintaining standards of medical education, providing ethical oversight, maintaining the medical register, and, through amendments in 1993, sanctioning medical colleges.
Dr. Nundy said the Centre, “will have to muster strong political support to act on the committee’s recommendations as this will inevitably involve hurting well entrenched and powerful interests.”
“For those of us in the medical profession in India who have been despairing of the state of affairs, this report is a long awaited panacea,” they write. “And for the citizens of India strained by the dual burden of expensive and unethical healthcare, the report could be a powerful tool in their struggle to make the healthcare system deliver their needs,” the BMJ editorial says.