Resident doctors at major government hospitals in Delhi, including All India Institutes of Medical Sciences, Safdarjung Hospital and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, have threatened an indefinite strike to protest against the National Medical Commission Bill, 2019, PTI reported. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday and will be tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

The bill seeks to regulate medical education and practices in India. The bill proposes to replace Medical Council of India, the regulatory body for medical education, with National Medical Commission and introduce a common final-year MBBS examination – the national exit test – for admission to postgraduate medical courses and for obtaining licence to practise medicine.

“Resident doctors will refrain from working in OPDs [outpatient departments], emergency departments and ICUs as a mark of protest on Thursday and the strike will continue for an indefinite period if the bill is tabled and passed in the Rajya Sabha,” Sumedh Sandanshiv, president of Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association, was quoted as saying by PTI.

The Resident Doctors’ Associations of hospitals including AIIMS and Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital have given separate notices to the administration regarding the proposed strike.

Late on Wednesday, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted that he would table the NMC bill for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. He assured the country that the bill, if passed, would bring major changes in the medical education sector.

Hospital authorities have issued a contingency plan for the smooth functioning of healthcare services so that emergency services function. “In addition, faculty members of other medical/surgical departments wherever applicable will also be deployed in the emergency,” the contingency plan drawn by AIIMS read. “Further ICUs will also be managed with the help of sponsored residents/pool officers and faculty members. Inpatient (General and Private) wards patient care services, Labour Room and Maternity Operation Theatre and support services will function normally and will be supervised by the concerned faculty of hospital administration.”

Authorities said that routine operation theatre services will largely remain suspended on Friday.

The Indian Medical Association had given a call for a 24-hour withdrawal of non-essential services on Wednesday. It said several health facilities across the country responded to it. The association had asked medicine students to boycott classes in solidarity with its protest.

In a statement, IMA had warned that it would intensify the agitation if the government continues to be “indifferent to our concerns”.

“The provisions of the said bill are nothing short of draconian and promote gross incompetence and mockery of the professionals currently working day and night and sacrificing their youth for this broken system,” the statement read.

It said if the bill is tabled in the Rajya Sabha without any amendments, the medical fraternity across the country will be “forced to resort to extreme measures”.

“The autonomy and pride of the entire medical fraternity has been surrendered to the whims and fancies of politicians and bureaucrats even as the Union health minister is a doctor himself,” AIIMS Resident Doctors’ Association President Amarinder Singh Malhi and president of its students’ union Mukul Kumar had said in a joint statement.