How good a solution is providing Unique ID (UID) for doctors in India? On October 26th, a resident of Delhi, Jai Narayan, was diagnosed with gall bladder stones at Agarwal Medical Centre at Greater Kailash-I in South Delhi. None in the facility conducted the necessary tests before abruptly wheeling him in for surgery. Minutes later, Dr Neeraj Agarwal, the owner of the centre, informed the patient’s brother how he (Jai Narayan) had died of a heart attack at the operation table.
Following an FIR, the Delhi Police arrested Agarwal (the faculty with a medical degree) and three others from the centre, including his wife, a lab assistant who posed as a doctor, and an associate doctor who prepared fake surgery notes. Later, when a panel of doctors sat with the victim’s post-mortem report, they confirmed that the patient had died due to excessive bleeding during the procedure.
Believe me, as I assure you, the avoidable deaths of Indian patients owing to the negligence of doctors are not as uncommon as they might seem! A study by Harvard University in 2018 revealed that nearly 50 lakh Indian lives are lost each year due to medical negligence!
A report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) illustrates the horrendous fact that over 57 per cent of doctors in India are quacks (not medically qualified). However, the deleterious condition of India’s medical infrastructure has made such tricksters emerge as ‘messiahs’ for the vulnerable and marginalised section of our society.
The government has finally decided to make hay as talks are underway for the National Medical Commission (NMC) to launch a pilot project to generate Unique Identification Numbers for Doctors in India. Hence, all doctors in India must get themselves registered in the National Medical Register (NMR) by 2024 to abate the harm wreaked by the unprecedented flux of fake doctors in the country.
National Medical Register:
The NMC aims to construct a central repository of information consisting of all crucial credentials of doctors practising in India. It shall feature:
- Doctor’s name;
- Registration Number;
- Place of Work;
- Medical Qualification (augmented with the name of their medical college);
- Area of Specialisation.
All these crucial data shall be made accessible to the public through NMC’s official website and shall replace the existing Indian Medical Register (IMR). The existing data in the IMR (nearly 14 lakh doctors) shall get forwarded into the NMR. Thus, the doctors registered with the IMR need not register themselves again.
The NMC has also mentioned how the Undergraduate (UG) medical students, too, shall be provided with ‘masked UIDs’ that shall not get unmasked till the concerned students complete their MBBS degrees. The provided UID shall remain with them throughout their professional careers and the doctors can update their qualifications on the portal should they achieve more degrees.
The NMR shall empower the patients to corroborate and authenticate their doctor’s credentials. The doctors, too, can update their licenses and use them to practise in multiple states across India. Thus, the hindrances caused by the maladies of degree duplication and bureaucratic red-tapism can get countered significantly through this machinery.
The NMC plans to carry out significant reforms:
The NMC has recently filled in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Quality Council of India (QCI) to assess the standards of Medical Institutions. Presently, only government medical colleges are mandated to enrol in the National Institutional Ranking Framework. From the 2024-25 academic session, all the government and private medical institutes shall be mandatorily evaluated based on their quality of education.
Including indigenous medical institutes in such an extensive framework can help them to avail phenomenal healthcare facilities via national accreditation of testing, inspection, and certification bodies.
India presently boasts being the world’s third-largest economy. But with a population exceeding 140 crores, the over-exploited healthcare infrastructure of the country seems to be crumbling. There appears to be an epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) like cardiac ailments, diabetes, and obesity, and records suggest that the death toll under NCDs shall exceed 5.5 crore by the end of 2030!
As of 2022-23, India spent only 2.1% of its GDP on healthcare, which is paltry compared to that of developed countries like Norway and Australia, which invest more than 10% of their GDP in strengthening their healthcare infrastructure. Even Nepal (5.1%) and Bangladesh (3%) outrank India when it comes to investing in healthcare!
Hence, such an initiative by the government appears to be a baby step in the right direction. However, the government must direct greater efforts to enhance India’s primary, secondary, and tertiary healthcare infrastructure.