Health services across the country was affected today as the Indian Medical Association (IMA), the apex body of Indian doctors, called for a nationwide strike against the Centre’s decision to allow post graduate Ayurvedic doctors to perform general surgeries, including ortho and dentistry.
The strike, which comes amid the coronavirus pandemic, is from 6 am to 6 pm. IMA, which announced that it will “withdraw all non-essential non-Covid medical services on December 11”, has exempted emergency services, including casualty, labour rooms, and emergency surgeries, along with ICU and CCU.
Last month, the Centre had issued a notification which authorises post-graduate practitioners in specified streams of Ayurveda to be trained to perform surgical procedures such as excisions of benign tumours, nasal and cataract surgeries. The notification by the Central Council of Indian Medicine, a statutory body under the AYUSH Ministry to regulate the Indian systems of medicine, listed 39 general surgery procedures and around 19 procedures involving the eye, ear, nose and throat by amending the Indian Medicine Central Council (Post Graduate Ayurveda Education) Regulations, 2016.
Dr (Ayurveda) Hari B, Medical Officer, Government General Hospital, Mahe, says he is against the protest. “An Ayurveda student graduates as a Bachelor of Ayurveda Medicine and Surgery. Both an Ayurveda doctor and a Western practitioner more or less undergo the same course of study. After all, the human body is the same. Although surgery is just a skill, for decades, the government has given allopathic doctors the go ahead and the facilities to conduct operations. ”
For those who want to specialise in surgery, the central government recognised three year Post Graduate course Shyala Tantra deals with surgery. “A person who has completed such intensive study should be familiar with the basics in surgery. Experience is what matters in surgery. If an Ayurveda doctor is given the same opportunity as a Western doctor, they will be able to hone their skills,” says Hari, who is perplexed as to why there are such strong protests against Ayurveda doctors practicing surgery in Kerala. “As far as I know Western doctors in other States are open to the idea. Only Kerala shows such strong opposition; I feel there is a possible political agenda behind it.”
Dr Sudhir Pai, orthopaedic surgeon at Cosmo Hospital calls the IMA strike a show of solidarity for people who have been practising allopathy. According to Dr Pai, one can’t perform a surgery without proper experience, knowledge and training. “I think the Indian medical system has to be revamped in a big way. The problem is that even now more than 60 per cent of the super speciality seats are unfilled in colleges. As a result, the number of doctors is coming down and the Health Ministry is trying to fill this gap with doctors from other specialities, which is not a solution. Ayurvedic doctors are coming up with suggestions that they will conduct operations after one or two years of training but how can one perform a heart or a brain surgery after just a year of training? Instead, one should work on revamping the health system in such a way that it creates job opportunities for all medical systems and not create a mixopathy.”
Dr Mohith Mathew is vocal on his views on the matter. A second year Surgery PG, Dr SMCSI Medical College, Karakonam, Dr Mathew says: “Although Indian physician Sushruta is considered the father of surgery as he wrote one of the world’s earliest works on medicine and surgery and we do use his texts during our course of study, medicine has come far with the help of technology. Modern medicine has filtered the ancient medicine practices be it Chinese or Greek and has adapted to suit the present day and age,” says Dr Mathew , who has shared his opinion on his Facebook page.
The Central Council of Indian Medicine had notified an amendment to the regulations of Ayurveda surgery incorporating the nomenclature of modern medicine post graduate degrees in surgery and its disciplines transgressing the legal powers vested in them on November 19, 2020. The amendment also included 58 modern medicine surgical procedures to be studied and performed by Ayurveda post graduate students and Practitioners
In India various systems of medicine exist under the control of the different legally recognised medical Councils.
Says an official of the Indian Medical Association Trivandrum: “We recognise Ayurveda as a system of medicine with its own merits to grow keeping its sanctity. However, the current notification will lead to Mixopathy and affect the health of the common man in our country adversely.”
As part of the strike, Indian Medical Association Trivandrum conducted a protest Dharna in front of Raj Bhavan from 11.30 am till 1 pm. Dr PT Zacharias, State President of Indian Medical Association Kerala State inaugurated the protest Dharna.