Indian Parliament passes path-breaking health sector bills
Multiple crucial health and safety bills have been passed by the Union Parliament which has major implications for the medical sector. Three labor code bills have been passed including the Industrial Relations Code, 2020, and the Code on Social Security, 2020 along with the much talked about Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Code, 2020. The NDA (National Democratic Alliance) Government has merged 29 Central regulations into four codes. The Wage Code was the first of these to be passed in August last year.
Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code
The Occupational Safety, Health and Working Conditions Code, 2020, amends the laws that regulate occupational safety, health and working conditions of employees. This code gives powers to State Government for exemption of new factories from its provisions for enabling more jobs and economic activities. 8 hours a day is the maximum work limit on a daily basis while women will be eligible for employment for all kinds of work. If they have to work in dangerous/hazardous conditions, the employers may be required to have proper safeguards in place before employment.
Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill
The historic Assisted Reproductive Technology Regulation Bill 2020 has been passed by the Union Cabinet which comes after the Surrogacy Regulation Bill 2020 and the approval of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Amendment Bill 2020. The National Board will be laying down codes of conduct for those working at clinics, setting the minimum physical infrastructure, diagnostic equipment and laboratory standards along with expert manpower to be employed by banks and clinics. States and Union Territories will create their State Boards within 3 months of the notification.
The bill creates a provision for a National Registry and Registration Authority for maintenance of a Central database along with prescribing strict punishments for people practicing sex selection, sale of human embryos, running rackets/organizations/agencies for unlawful practices and so on. This bill will be regulating Assisted Reproductive Technology services while couples battling infertility will gain more confidence relating to ethical practices in the sector.
The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill
The National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2020 was introduced on the 15th of September, 2020, in the Rajya Sabha. The Bill will regulate and standardize the practice and education of allied and healthcare professionals defined as technicians, associates or technologists who support the treatment or diagnosis of any illness, impairment, injury or disease. These professionals should have degrees/diplomas under this bill with at least 2,000 hours (over 2-4 years).
Healthcare professionals should have 3,600 hours (3-6 years) of degrees including therapists, scientists or other professionals researching studying and advising health services. The bill specifies several healthcare professions while setting up the national commission body as well. Only those enrolled in State or National Register will be allowed to practice.
Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill
The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Bill, 2020, was introduced on 14th September this year in the Rajya Sabha. This amends the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 and includes protection for healthcare professionals combating epidemic diseases while empowering the Central Government with added powers for tackling the spread of these diseases. The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance of 22nd April, 2020, has been repealed likewise.
Homeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill
The Homeopathy Central Council (Amendment) Bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha and will ensure that all types of medicines are available to citizens. New medical institutions will be set up in the country and they will have separate blocks for covering Indian medicines accordingly. Naturopathy and yoga will have separate representation. This bill amends the Homeopathy Central Council Act of 1973.
Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill
This bill amends the Indian Medicine Central Council Act of 1970. The bill states that the central council will be superseded from 24th April (date of ordinance promulgation). The council will have reconstitution from the suppression date. The Centre will create a board of governors in the interim which will exercise the council’s powers.
National Forensic Sciences University Bill
The National Forensic Sciences University Bill, 2020, sets up the National Forensic Science University as an official institution of national importance.
Medical Termination of Pregnancy (Amendment) Bill
The bill wishes to amend the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act of 1971, adding a definition of pregnancy termination to cover a procedure using surgical/medical methods. It aims to scale up access for women to legal and safe abortion services on social, therapeutic, humanitarian or eugenic grounds. India will now be amidst a league of global nations with progressive laws enabling legal abortions on various grounds. The pregnancy termination period allowed will be extended to 20 weeks from 12 weeks. Cases between 20-24 weeks will need approval from registered medical practitioners.