Three pathologists in Mumbai and one in Karad have come under the scanner of the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) for working as authorised pathologists in several laboratories but not actually visiting the labs to conduct any tests.
The case has come up for hearing after witnessing a significant delay of three years due to a backlog of hundreds of pending cases at the Council. According to the sources, complaint against two pathologists based in Mumbai was made in 2012, while that of two others based in Mumbai and Karad was made in 2013.
The MMC is now probing charges of whether these pathologists are part of illegal laboratories duping patients by running with no qualified personnel.
According to the complaint filed by the Maharashtra Association of Practicing Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM), a body that monitors practices of pathologists and microbiologists working in the state, these four doctors (names withheld) were signing for test reports conducted at labs without actually testing the samples themselves.
A pathologist is supposed to test samples like urine, blood, stool or tissue, to make diagnosis of a particular infection or disease. Based on the lab report, a treating clinician further decides the course of treatment.
While a pathologist is permitted to work in several laboratories, they are supposed to personally test samples at all laboratories and sign each report. In this case, they were just signing reports.
One Mumbai pathologist’s signature was found in 12 labs, the second’s in 28 labs, and third’s in 15 labs on the same day. The pathologist in Karad was attached with 10 labs.
“We noticed that one doctor was attached with labs in Virar, Panvel, Thane and south Mumbai. It is humanly impossible to visit all labs in a single day and test samples,” said Dr Sandeep Yadav, chairman of MAPPM, adding that he found that para-medical staff were actually conducting the tests of patient’s samples and preparing reports.
So far, a preliminary hearing of the four pathologists has been held twice, in August and December this year. We have given them ample opportunity to prove how they have been testing so many samples in so many laboratories simultaneously,” said an executive member from MMC, adding that the evidence of the signatures in different labs is available with them.
For pathology, a person has to first complete MBBS followed by either a two-year degree in clinical pathology or MD in pathology. Only qualified doctors are permitted, as per Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act, 1961, to provide diagnosis over samples submitted to labs.
Mumbai has about 2,000 laboratories while Maharashtra has 10,000. For these many laboratories, there are 2,500 pathologists registered with the MMC.
“Laboratories should also be held up for appointing pathologists to only sign reports. So far, there is no act binding them. The upcoming Clinical Establishment Act will have some provisions,” Yadav said.