According to a senior IMA functionary, the system of employing those qualified to prescribe traditional cures in hospitals and clinics that specialise in allopathic healthcare has resulted in hundreds of medical negligence cases being filed against IMA members.
The decision to call for a ban was taken by IMA’s central council last week and has been communicated to all its members. The notification stated, “Directions are being given to hospitals and doctors not to appoint Ayush (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy) Doctors as Resident Medical Officers (RMO)/Assistant. Strong action will be taken against those violating the directions”. IMA could revoke the membership of a doctor or institution found flouting this directive – outcasts will lose the support of IMA in battling medico-legal and malpractice cases.
“It is a simple and clear message to our doctors. No ayurveda or homeopathy practitioner should be hired as an assistant or as an RMO in any allopathic medical set-up,” Dr KK Aggarwal, senior national vice-president of IMA told Mumbai Mirror. “Such cases have only increased across the country in the past few years which forced us to call for the blanket ban,” said Aggarwal.
Such hiring practices are prevalent primarily in government hospitals in rural areas, which retain the services of Ayush doctors owing to lack of qualified allopathic practitioners.
Incidentally, the state government recently passed a bill which allows those practicing ayurveda and homoeopathy to prescribe allopathic cures upon completing a year-long bridge course called ‘Certificate Course in Modern Pharmacology’, which will be designed by Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS).
“If a homoeopath or an ayurveda practitioner stops practicing his own stream, he is obviously degrading it. Even if they do that course, our stand will remain the same. As far as the issue of shortage of doctors is concerned, the government should increase the number of medical seats instead of allowing this,” said Aggarwal, adding that doctors flouting these norms will loose their IMA registration.
Many Indian courts have excoriated homeopaths and ayurveda practitioners for prescribing allopathic medicines. In a 1996 case of medical negligence, in which a homoeopath’s prescription of allopathic treatment to aman afflicted with typhoid resulted in the patient’s death, the Supreme Court, which adjudicated, said: “A doctor must not only be qualified but he must also be registered with the appropriate Medical Council in order to practice as a doctor. A homeopath would not have knowledge about allopathic medicines and its drug reactions. So the mere administration of allopathic treatment by a homeopath would be enough proof to establish negligence.”
Senior eye surgeon Dr T P Lahane, a medical professional of 32-years’ experience, and head of the state-run JJ Hospital, was of the opinion that allowing homeopaths or ayurveda practitioners to administer modern medicine is extremely unjust. “If they have not learnt the science thoroughly and extensively, they cannot be allowed to practice it so easily,” he said.
However, those Ayush doctors that are the target of the IMA’s ire point out that they fulfil a vital need. “These modern medicine practitioners who are making so much noise should survey the hospitals and see who is treating the poor in Primary Health Centres in rural areas,” said Dr Bahubali Shah, administrator, Maharashtra Council of Homeopathy, adding there are over 60,000 homeopaths, 81,000 ayurveda practitioners in Maharashtra, as against 1.21 lakh allopathic doctors. “We are not simply asking for permission to practice allopathy. We want to do it legitimately by doing the course.”