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Ramesh Shankar
Wednesday, June 12, 2024, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Experts in the healthcare sector have recently called upon the Union Health Ministry to re-introduce Indian Medical Service (IMS) on the lines of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS). IMS was present during the British era but was discontinued after India’s independence. For quite some time, there were clamors from different quarters to introduce a separate cadre of IMS on the lines of All India civil services such as IAS and IPS. As early as in 1961, the Mudaliar Committee in its report had also recommended to the government for the formation of a central healthcare cadre. Recently, the Parliamentary Standing Committee attached to the Union Health Ministry had joined the bandwagon of experts calling for the creation of IMS on the lines of IAS, IPS and IFS. Appreciating and recognising the role of doctors as corona warriors in combating Covid-19, the Parliamentary panel headed by Rajya Sabha member Ram Gopal Verma in its report tabled in Parliament in the year 2021 noted that creation of such a cadre would be handy for the implementation of various flagship programs of the government related to health. The panel noted that the moment is the golden opportunity to explore the possibility of organizing IMS as it would provide efficient healthcare managers to enhance the success rate of healthcare projects and make policy programs and specific course of action for fighting against lethal diseases. More recently in April this year, Think Change Forum, an independent think tank dedicated to generating new ideas and finding solutions for navigating through a new changing world, organized a panel discussion on the issue in which the country’s leading medical experts representing public and private sectors underscored the need for re-introducing IMS. They are of the view that the introduction of IMS will help stop brain drain from public medical services by attracting and retaining the best medical talent and will allow for superior healthcare outcomes with better managed facilities and processes, as no longer generalists will be managing the specialists. Experts also argue that the creation of IMS will reduce health crises and reduction in tertiary cases by improved preventive healthcare at primary levels and will also enable seamless coordination between States and Centre for healthcare policy making.

It is not that the government is not seized of the issue. In fact, successive governments at the Centre have looked at this issue, but there has not been much progress on this front so far. In 2017, the Central government had expressed its interest in creating the Indian Medical Service on the lines of IAS and IPS. Following this, the health ministry had sent a circular to the States asking for their views on such a move. However, even after years, no further action has been taken with regard to the formation of IMA. Now, the challenges driven by the Covid-19 pandemic has reinvigorated the demand from the medical fraternity for the creation of a separate cadre of Indian Medical Service. It is true that the creation of the IMS cadre has become more relevant in the aftermath of the pandemic, as there is a dire need to devise effective strategies for controlling such epidemics and improving the overall healthcare system in future. Covid has exposed the lack of coordination and collaboration between the public and private sector in view of the inadequacy of health facilities. Given these circumstances, the IMS could be a game-changer as it would bridge the gap between decision-making and delivery.

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