An ordinance was issued on Wednesday to allow a committee of eminent professionals run the scam-tainted Medical Council of India till a bill which seeks to replace the body with a new commission is passed by Parliament.
A bill to replace MCI with the National Medical Commission is pending in Parliament.
Briefing reporters, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the ordinance was cleared by the Union Cabinet Wednesday morning and President Ram Nath Kovind has given his assent.
Official source said the ordinance supersedes the MCI and the powers of the council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG).
The BoG will continue to perform till a Council is constituted. A similar Board of Governors was also appointed in 2010.
Health Minister J P Nadda hailed the ordinance.
"An ordinance to supersede the MCI has been cleared. The powers of the council have been vested in a Board of Governors (BoG). It is expected that the BoG will bring about urgent and much required reforms in the field of medical education," he tweeted.
"I am happy that professionals of great eminence, who were earlier part of Oversight Committee formed by Hon. Supreme Court, will constitute the BoG and I'm sure they will work towards enhancing access to quality healthcare for all," Nadda added. Nadda said that the country has faced several challenges in health sector such as high levels of out-of-pocket expenditure and catastrophic expenditure that impoverished people due to inadequate public health infrastructure and limited access and coverage of essential and life-saving interventions.
During the past four years, several measures have been taken to systematically address these challenges.
Nadda highlighted the recent initiatives by the government in the health sector including Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana — the national health insurance scheme, setting up of over 1,50,000 Health and Wellness Centres, new AIIMS and National Health Policy.
He said that despite several path-breaking efforts and initiatives, the country's march to achieving the universal health coverage and other targets of sustainable development goals and national health policy is constrained on account of inadequate number of qualified health care professionals due to slow pace of commensurate reforms in medical education.
"The ambitious programmes and policies of health care could not be made a reality without ensuring availability of required number of qualified doctors and other health care professionals. "Realising this need, the government has attempted to bring about reforms in medical education," he said.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) said the oversight committee consisting of eminent doctors, without bureaucrats and non-medical members, "is a vindication of IMA stand point".
Indirectly, the government has conceded that the medical profession should be governed by medical doctors only, the IMA said in a statement.
However, the association of doctors, which is a pan-India voluntary organisation of modern medicine doctors and has two-and-a-half lakh members, will hold an emergency action committee meeting in Mumbai on Friday to study the fallout and impact of the ordinance.
Amid allegations of corruption against MCI office bearers and probes into opaque accreditation to medical colleges, the Supreme Court had in May 2016 directed the government to set up an oversight committee with the authority to oversee all statutory functions of MCI till the new legislation comes in.
Many of MCI members have been accused of taking bribes to fast-track accreditation.
In 2017, another Oversight Committee was set up with the approval of the Supreme Court after expiry of the one year term of the first panel. The second committee was chaired by Dr V K Paul and included eminent doctors including those from AIIMS (Delhi), PGI Chandigarh and NIMHANS.
The official sources stated that in July this year, the committee resigned citing instances of "non-compliance of their instructions by MCI". The committee claimed that the MCI had also challenged its authority.
The official sources said in a scenario when the SC-appointed panel could not function and the bill to replace MCI awaiting parliamentary nod, certain "immediate steps" were needed.
The Board of Governors include Niti Aayog member V K Paul, AIIMS, Delhi director Randeep Guleria, PGIMER, Chandigarh director Jagat Ram, NIMHANS Bangalore director B N Gangadhar and Nikhil Tandon, professor, Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism at AIIMS here. They were all members of the second oversight committee
Director general health services S Venkatesh and director general ICMR Balram Bhargava will be the ex-officio members.
The sources said all members of the board are eminently qualified and "apolitical".
The National Medical Commission Bill pending in Parliament provides for simplification of procedures and is expected to spur rapid growth in the number of under-graduate and post-graduate seats in the country besides enhancing the governance and quality of medical education, the health ministry said in an official statement.
It also provides for distribution of functions among four autonomous boards whose members would be persons of proven ability selected through a transparent process.