FOUR pathologists, found to have been involved in duping patients by signing pathology reports which they actually did not test or supervise, face a minimum six months’ suspension from practice. In an executive committee meeting of the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) on Sunday, the case of the four pathologists came up for final hearing. The regulatory body found their conduct “unethical” and decided to remove their names from the list of registered pathologists for six months.
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The pathologists — S M Tripathi from Worli, Pravin Shinde from Navi Mumbai, Ketan Davada from Thane and Marutrao Pawar from Karad — were attached with multiple ‘illegal’ diagnostic laboratories. Tripathi had been providing his signature on pathology reports prepared by seven labs in Mumbai, Shinde had been attached with over 20 labs in Navi Mumbai and Davada with more than 30 labs in Thane. Pawar was attached with 10 labs, which were at least 25 kilometres apart, in Satara. He also worked full-time as a lecturer at Krishna Institute of Medical Sciences.
In the hearing, MMC president Dr Kishor Taori observed, “They were jeopardising public health… This is an unethical conduct.” This incident also throws light on the illegal laboratories mushrooming in the state. The MMC is mulling over notifying local corporations on the scam.
A pathologist’s work involves testing samples of urine, blood, stool or tissue, to make diagnosis of a particular infection or disease. Based on their reports, a clinician can decide the course of treatment. In India, pathologists are permitted to work in multiple laboratories, but norms demand that they should be physically present while samples are being tested in the laboratory, before they make an analysis and sign the report.
In this case, the pathologists were found signing reports, without supervising the testing. The labs were actually being run by technicians, holding either a Diploma in Medical Laboratory Technology (DMLT) or Certificate degree in Medical Laboratory Technology (CMLT), which qualifies one to conduct tests but only under a pathologist’s supervision.
“These technicians were running labs by themselves. Since they are not registered with us, we cannot take action against them,” said Shivkumar Utture, a member of the MMC.
The complaint against the pathologists was filed by the Maharashtra Association of Practising Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM), a body that monitors practices of pathologists and microbiologists in the state. In the complaint, they had alleged that several illegal laboratories were collaborating with registered pathologists, willing to sign the lab reports without supervising the tests.
On inspection, the MMC found that it was impossible for one pathologist to visit so many centres, located far apart from one another, on a single day.
The MMC has now formed a five-member committee to submit recommendations on comprehensive guidelines for registered pathologists in the state. The committee will also lay down guidelines for minimum number of laboratories a pathologist could attach himself or herself with. This will ensure a pathologist is not attached with a lab for just monetary benefits.
For becoming a pathologist, a person has to first complete MBBS, followed by either a two-year degree in clinical pathology or MD in pathology. Only registered doctors are permitted, as per the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners (MMP) Act, 1961, to provide diagnosis of samples submitted to labs.
Sandeep Yadav, chairman of MAPPM, is now approaching the state health department to take action against technicians setting up labs to conduct pathology tests. “As per MMP Act, they are bogus doctors,” he said.
Mumbai has at least 2,000 laboratories and Maharashtra has 10,000. There are 2,500 pathologists registered with the MMC.