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Govt has done well to accept findings of WHO on quacks

The Financial Express
NMC Bill, National Medical Council, National Medical Council bill, Community Health Providers, healthcare

The government's desperation over clearing the air on the National Medical Council (NMC) Bill has forced it to accept and acknowledge a problem that it had, only last year, denied even exists. The NMC Bill talks of bridge course to enable Ayush practitioners to prescribe allopathic medicines-this will take care of the poor doctor-patient ratio that India has. As per a Times of India report, while the government, in January last year, had termed "erroneous" the WHO finding that nearly 57% of those practising allopathic medicine in the country didn't have any medical qualification, now, it has included the figure in its FAQs over the NMC Bill. The NMC Bill talks of Community Health Providers-healthcare professionals who can be trained with the bridge courses.

India's doctor-population ratio remains a sickly one doctor for a thousand people. Thus, it is crucial to accept the case for having community health providers. India needs more doctors, and ideas like converting district health hospitals into medical colleges make eminent sense. Until this can be achieved, the country needs to work with what it has. Besides, as Devi Shetty of Narayana Health and Srinath Reddy of Public Health Foundation of India highlight, India's problem is over-medicalisation. Reddy points to the case of mid-level health workers in Chhattisgarh who have proved better than doctors at treating primary care conditions, especially malaria. He emphasises the need to train nurses to become 'nurse practitioners' and 'nurse anaesthetists'. Shetty, on the other hand, says that "even in the litigation-happy US, 67% of anaesthesia is given by nurses, not doctors". If more of community health providers can do the same, it would only help rural health care. More important, it would make more sense to impart the necessary training to a large talent pool of health professionals than let quacks thrive.