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Licence leash on foreign doctors

Goaded by the city’s powerful lobby of medical practitioners, the government is planning to screen foreign doctors brought over by private hospitals to treat patients in an effort to raise their worth in an increasingly competitive market.

“We asked the government to do something about this growing fad of bringing over these foreign doctors to treat patients at prohibitive costs, without the obligation of being present when complications arise,” said R.D. Dubey, joint secretary of the Indian Medical Association (IMA).

“So many times, these doctors, after performing a surgery, take an overnight flight back home. What happens if the patient dies of post-operative complications'” he asked.

The West Bengal Medical Council (WBMC) has come down heavily on the practice — indulged in by several private nursing homes — of flying in a doctor from abroad, organising a lecture or two, and then getting him to perform surgery.

Asking the state government to put an end to this “illegal” practice, the WBMC has reminded it of rules that do not allow foreign-registered doctors to treat patients in the country without its prior approval.

A few of the specialists who have come down to Calcutta and either treated patients or performed surgeries in the recent past are Max Amor (cardiac surgeon from France), Jan Jakubowski (neurosurgeon from Sheffield, England) and J.L. Briad (orthopaedic surgeon from France).

The IMA — the largest pan-Indian body of doctors having a strong presence in the city and elsewhere in the state — has agreed to join hands with the WBMC to launch a campaign against the “errant” private hospitals, making the statutory body’s task much easier.

The Medical Council move follows a slew of complaints on this issue, say officials. The body was only asking the state government to enforce the existing ban on all doctors not having Medical Council of India (MCI) registration numbers from practising in India.

According to rules applicable throughout the country, only doctors with MCI registration numbers can treat patients in the country. Doctors visiting India from other countries must inform the MCI about the intention of their visit and obtain permission from it before they see a single patient.

“Will the US or the UK ever allow an Indian doctor to practise without the approval of the council there'” WBMC president Ashok Choudhury exclaimed.

“No hospital ever bothers to get in touch with us or obtain the permission necessary for foreign consultants who drop in here and treat patients,” he said. “But we are going to be very strict about the implementation of the rules from now and have notified the state health department accordingly,” he added.

A hospital could apply for a temporary registration for a visiting physician if it felt that he/she — a specialist in any field — could help with inputs in a workshop.

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