26 August, 2016

The state government has decided to do away with the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) overnight, instead deciding to appoint an administrator to deal with issues from renewal of licences to registrations and medical negligence cases, all that the 18-member MMC used to do.

But, the council knew it was coming all along. "Ever since the Indian Medical Association (IMA) filed a court case against the government for delaying the upcoming MMC elections, which were supposed to take place early this year, there were plans to scrap the MMC for being extremely active and transparent. The body has completed five years and needed a new president. Looking at the lack of response from the government or permission for elections for new appointees, IMA went ahead and filed a case. This aggravated the issue and Dr Dilip Wange, who is the Ayurveda Council of India's head, was appointed as a registrar with us. We opposed it strongly as the MMC has always believed in pure medical practice and no member practises alternate therapy like Wange. Now, we are left with no choice but to move court by challenging the current government's decision, which will only deteriorate the plight of the entire medical and healthcare fraternity in Maharashtra," rued MMC executive member Dr Shivkumar Utture.

The state has decided that the council will now be a one-man show by Dr Abhay Chowdhary, head of department of microbiology, Grant medical college and JJ Hospital of Mumbai. "Currently, we are 18 members working on many issues as a council. But, only one administrator — that too, someone who has been given an additional charge as he is already a full-timer with Mumbai's Grant Hospital — will make MMC a non-responsive body run by only one man, who will not be able to justify the work of the council itself. The Medical Council of India (MCI) is also in trouble, but is still fighting and has been given a fair chance to explain its problems. But here, without any intimation or even an open letter, we came to know that MMC has been scrapped. With an ayurveda doctor as a registrar and a full-timer as an administrator, there is no future at all for the council. This will lead to more corruption in the system and the administrator will only act like a ministry puppet and further ruin the state's healthcare."

The Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) has come out in support of MMC, opposing the sudden scrapping of the body. "It looks like the government wants to control all power. This is the death of democracy. We collectively oppose politically, legally and morally the administration's game plan to undermine the autonomy of medical councils and bring in place a rubber stamp body which will toe the government policies and dictats," Dr Sagar Mundada told Pune Mirror.

However, MMC vice-president Dr Avinash Yelikar, who himself was a complainant, said, "I have been noticing the ill manners of the council for the last few years and had even informed the government about MMC crossing its limits. Finally, after the committee saw and proved the allegations, it was decided that the body would be scrapped. But, we have requested the government to conduct elections soon as a one-member body will not be enough to run a council; there has to be transparency."

It was no sudden step, claimed director Dr Pravin Shingare, from the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER). "We have scrapped MMC and they will receive a letter on Friday with the information. They were given a show-cause notice three months ago and were warned to rectify their behavior. They did not and, hence, the medical education ministry took such a stern step. There were certain irregularities like favouring members, distributing awards to doctors for collecting votes, creating vote banks for upcoming elections and so on. Dr Abhay Chowdhary has been asked not to talk to anybody as it is the decision of the ministry, which was unhappy with the MMC response," he said.

Medha Gadgil, principal secretary of the medical education and drugs ministry, Maharashtra, clarified, "The minister took the decision of scrapping MMC but, prior to that, memberswere heard in person."