New Laws on Healthcare Professions & Termination of Pregnancy in Offing
The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed two important Bills of healthcare sectors and the proposed amendments are expected to make transformative changes to the existing provisions and regulations.
With President’s assent to The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020, which was passed by a voice vote in Rajya Sabha would create a new ecosystem in the country by bridging the long term policy gap in the healthcare system. The Rajya Sabha has also approved the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021 to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971 on 16th March 2021. The Bill seeks to enhance the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women The Bill was approved in Lok Sabha on 17th March 2020.
Replying to a debate on the Healthcare Professions Bill, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the legislation is aimed at fulfilling long-pending demands for the sector. The Bill seeks to provide for regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals and will create an institutional structure to enhance employability.
The new law is expected to benefit 8-9 lakh existing allied and healthcare professionals. There would be shortage of 1.80 crore healthcare professionals by 2030 as per the WHO global workforce report.
The Bill provides for regulation and maintenance of standards of education and services by allied and healthcare professionals, assessment of institutions, maintenance of a central and a state register and creation of a system to improve research and development and adoption of latest scientific advancement. The allied and healthcare professions include a wide range of workers for diagnosis, evaluation and treatment of acute and chronic diseases. These professions also work to optimise patient outcomes and attend to overall prevention, promotion, wellness and management of diseases. As per the statement of objects and the reasons of the Bill, the advancement in the health sector, changing preferences of consumers and service providers, had warranted creation of a fresh vision of healthcare delivery with a patient-centric approach and focus on moving to a multi-disciplinary team-based care.
Earlier in December 2018, the Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018, was introduced in Rajya Sabha and the same was referred to the Department Related Parliamentary Standing Committee, which after a detailed examination recommended certain amendments. Therefore, it was withdrawn and a new Bill called the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020, incorporating the recommendations made by the panel, was introduced last year.
Functions of the Commission
The Commission will perform the following functions with regard to Allied and Healthcare professionals: (i) framing policies and standards for regulating education and practice, (ii) creating and maintaining an online Central Register of all registered professionals, (iii) providing basic standards of education, courses, curriculum, staff qualifications, examination, training, maximum fee payable for various categories, and (iv) providing for a uniform entrance and exit examination, among others.
Salient features of Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill, 2021
• Enhancing the upper gestation limit from 20 to 24 weeks for special categories of women which will be defined in the amendments to the MTP Rules and would include survivors of rape, victims of incest and other vulnerable women (like differently-abled women, minors) etc.
• Opinion of only one provider will be required up to 20 weeks of gestation and of two providers for termination of pregnancy of 20-24 weeks of gestation.
• Upper gestation limit not to apply in cases of substantial foetal abnormalities diagnosed by Medical Board. The composition, functions and other details of Medical Board to be prescribed subsequently in Rules under the Act.
• Name and other particulars of a woman whose pregnancy has been terminated shall not be revealed except to a person authorised in any law for the time being in force.
• The ground of failure of contraceptive has been extended to women and her partner.
• The Bill is for expanding access of women to safe and legal abortion services on therapeutic, eugenic, humanitarian or social grounds.
• The amendments will increase the ambit and access of women to safe abortion services and will ensure dignity, autonomy, confidentiality and justice for women who need to terminate pregnancy.