Finally, state to ban illegal path labs

Updated: Jun 26, 2019, 07:57 IST | Dharmendra Jore

The decision to re-issue a GR in this regard came after Shiv Sena and Congress legislators raised the matter that poses threat to public health care

Finally, state to ban illegal path labs
The Maharashtra Association of Practising Pathologists and Microbiologists said many illegal labs operate in the city. Representation pic/Istock

Three years after withdrawing the GR regarding illegal path labs, the state government was forced to begin a crackdown on illegal pathology laboratories run by laboratory technicians. The decision to re-issue a government resolution (GR) within eight days was announced in the legislative assembly when the matter concerning public health at large was raised by both ruling and opposition party legislators.

Minister of state for medical education, Ravindra Chavan, assured the lower house that the GR will be re-issued before the legislative session comes to an end next week. A GR issued three years ago said examining samples of body fluids, urine, blood or tissue and signing medical reports was a medical practice and should be done only by a registered medical professional. It said action should be taken against violations under the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act. This GR was withdrawn in two days despite the Supreme Court and Maharashtra Human Rights Commission telling the governments to prevent bogus labs.

The Apex court had said in a similar case in Gujarat that as decided by the Medical Council of India (MCI), a pathology laboratory report can be countersigned only by a registered medical practitioner with a post-graduate qualification in pathology/microbiology. Legislators said that laboratory technicians were still running the units and also countersigning reports for further treatment of patients.

Aggressive Sena, Cong, BJP

Shiv Sena's Sunil Prabhu, Sandipan Bhumre, Sanjay Potnis, Sunil Shinde, Sunil Raut, Prakash Fatarpekar, Bhimrao Dhonde, and Opposition leader Vijay Wadettiwar and his Congress colleagues Praniti Shinde, Balasaheb Thorat, Amin Patel and Aslam Sheikh called the government's attention towards the issue calling it a serious threat to public health. BJP's Sunil Deshmukh, who is also MD radiology, and Manisha Chaudhari, voiced their concerns as well.

"Some 8,000 bogus pathology labs are being operated in the state. These labs cheat almost one lakh patients every day by charging good money for giving incorrect findings. The reports are not countersigned by qualified post-graduate doctors," the notice said, asking the state to take immediate action and invoke the GR first issued on May 24, 2016.

The notice also questioned why action was not taken against bogus labs in Mumbai and rest of Maharashtra. District collectors and municipal commissioners did not respond to the medical education departments' directive for collecting information about the bogus pathology labs in their jurisdiction. It said the public, elected representatives and registered pathologists, who have MD and equivalent qualification, were concerned about quality health care and cheating.

The law makers said the Maharashtra Association of Practising Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM) had brought the malpractice to the government's notice repeatedly, latest early this month. MAPPM had also informed the government about arrests made and convicts sent to jail. It had informed that 70 per cent labs in urban areas were illegal and one-third labs in Mumbai were bogus. MAPPM has also blamed corporate and private hospitals for operating technician-run pathology labs fleecing hapless patients.

Legislators on Tuesday said that some registered pathologists were also part of the rampant malpractice because they were allowing bogus labs to use their digital signatures for ratifying reports, without examining samples and reading findings.

MAPPM assures cooperation

Apart from the discussions, a written response was also submitted to the house, stating that a medical practitioner was well defined in the state act, and only pathologists registered with Maharashtra and Indian medical councils can examine and certify tests. It said the state council was authorised to inquire into any misdeed/violation and initiate action against the guilty.

Maharashtra Paramedical Council Act had come into force from October 2017 for taking action against paramedics (such as technicians). President of MAPPM, Dr Sandeep Yadav, welcomed the decision and thanked lawmakers for raising a serious issue. "We are looking forward to the GR and its proper enforcement. We will continue to cooperate with the government in the future as well," he said.

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