COVID-19 in Mumbai: Notice calls for FIR against doctors prescribing COVID-19 test without physical exam

Updated: May 20, 2020, 07:47 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

M East ward's notice directs FIR, cancelling licence of doctors who prescribe COVID-19 test without physically examining patients

A private doctor disinfects his clinic in Dharavi. Pic/Suresh Karkera
A private doctor disinfects his clinic in Dharavi. Pic/Suresh Karkera

A doctor's association has demanded that the BMC take back a directive issued by the M East ward office that allows for action against doctors if they prescribe a COVID-19 test without a physical examination.

The M East ward, in a notice on May 17, said that local health officers at the ward may take action such as issue a show-cause notice about cancelling the licence or file an FIR if a doctor does not physically examine a patient first. In another instance, the BMC attached an annexure with an undertaking saying the doctor has done a physical examination to the ICMR's (Indian Council of Medical Research) guidelines on testing criteria on May 10.

The Association of Medical Consultants (AMC) claimed that the ward's directive goes against an amendment to the MCI Ethics Act this year. It had written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on May 9, pointing out loopholes in the healthcare system and said that unless the government controls the spread, the infrastructure will be further challenged.

The association claims a strength of 12,000 doctors catering to 90 per cent of the healthcare in Mumbai hospitals. The contentious disclaimer in the annexure reads, "If I fail to follow the ICMR guidelines/MCGM protocol issued under no____, I shall be liable for action deemed fit by the MCGM, including cancellation of MCI registration."

The AMC also wrote to the BMC chief Iqbal Singh Chahal on Tuesday. Dr. Nilima Vaidya-Bhamare, AMC secretary, said, "Even the ward's health officer has been instructed to file an FIR against doctors over physical examination. But an amendment to the MCI Ethics Act 2020 says that a Registered Medical Practitioner is entitled to provide telemedicine consultation from any part of India. It provides safety in a situation where there is a risk of contagious infections." She added that ICMR guidelines mention testing criteria as an influenza-like illness based on symptoms and physical findings do not play a major role.

The doctors underlined other drawbacks in testing guidelines. "It has removed the provision for testing at fever clinics and even screening at OPD unless patients are from containment zones. The government is probably unaware of the ground reality that patients turning positive define containment zones and not the other way round. Asymptomatic patients have been found to be positive during surgeries infecting doctors and healthcare staff," said Dr. Deepak Baid, AMC president.

Earlier this month, the BMC was forced to take back another such order after doctors protested.

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