One of Delhi government’s biggest hospitals, Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB), is under scanner for allegedly referring patients to private labs for tests which are available on its premises; allowing staff from such labs to enter the hospital and draw samples from patients; and delaying patient surgeries.
The revelations were made in a report filed by an enquiry committee on the directions of Health Minister Satyendar Jain. The minister had asked the health department last month to conduct an investigation after he received several complaints on how touts were operating inside the hospital with the help of staff. A three-member committee has now submitted its report to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
“During the visit, the team found that for conducting tests such as MRI/PET-CT/Echocardiography, indoor patients are referred to outside labs which also arrange transportation. In this case, the possibility of providing preference to a particular lab cannot be ruled out. Similar situation may also be true for outdoor referral patients,” said a senior official from the department.
Free surgeries and tests among AAP’s pet projects
In a bid to streamline medical services for patients of Delhi, the AAP government had introduced ‘Quality Healthcare for All’ scheme, which listed 52 surgeries for which patients can be referred from a government hospital to an empanelled private hospital if the wait time is a month or more. The government also tied up with private centres to provide high-end diagnostics, such as MRI and PET-CT. But cases have been reported where patients are still being charged for surgeries, which as per government are free of cost. In many cases, to avoid long queues at government hospitals, patients are opting for private labs and medical shops.
Situated in east Delhi, the hospital witnesses an average of 7,200-7,500 patients per day in the out-patient department (OPD). In January this year, the Aam Aadmi Party government tied up with private centres to provide high-end diagnostics, such as MRI and PET-CT, free of cost.
Committee members visited various departments of the hospital to check the allegations. While the team appreciated the functioning of the radiology department, it raised questions on the functioning of orthopedics and neurosurgery wards.
“In orthopedic and neurosurgery wards, on random picking of records of patients, it was found that in almost each file some investigations were done from outside labs. On further inquiry from sister in-charge, it was also learnt that samples are given to labs by resident doctors or a lab person takes sample from the hospital,” the committee stated in the enquiry report, accessed by The Indian Express.
When contacted, Dr Sunil Kumar, medical director of the hospital, said, “I am aware about the enquiry but I am yet to see the committee report. We will take strict action against officials involved.”
As per the report, many tests such as Hepatitis B and C, HIV 1 and 2, etc at these wards were done from outside labs. The committee further visited other departments to verify whether these tests are available in the hospital. It was found that not a single investigation was done outside in case of the Maternal and Child Health (MCH) block, where test facilities were available.
“We were surprised to see that these investigations were done in the hospital itself. While checking the stock register of the main store of the laboratory, we found that sufficient number of kits for these tests were available,” said the official.
The committee, in its report, agreed that there are chances of preferential treatment given to labs.
“Possibility of some nexus in choosing the private radiological centre for MRI/Echocardiography and PET CT, etc cannot be ruled out in indoor and outdoor services. These investigations done outside have differential rates for hospital patients, who are paying from their own pockets and are not covered under Delhi Arogya Kosh,” the report stated.
Suggesting ways to address the issues, the committee asked the hospital administration to maintain a register at important positions where senior doctors and doctors on duty can make observations on a regular basis. Regular inspections should be carried out to ensure zero corruption, it said.
“A separate box should be placed in the hospital in which people can share their experiences about the investigations done, availability of medicines, etc. This should be then discussed in a monthly meeting with the heads of departments and doctors,” the report suggested.