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FIR against Mumbai doctors if patient sent for swab test sans examination

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) notice stated that all medical officers of health (MOH) of the 24 wards should follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) for swab testing.

Updated: May 20, 2020 07:34 IST

By Rupsa Chakraborty, Hindustan Times Mumbai

The ward officers will have to inform police to file FIR against the doctors if they are found violating the rules. (PTI file photo. Representative image )

Doctors found prescribing swab tests to detect Covid-19 without examining patients could not only lose their licences to practice, but will also face a criminal case under section 188 (disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Epidemic Act of 1897, the civic body’s notice, issued on Sunday, stated.

On May 7, HT was the first to report that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was planning to file a first information report (FIR) against doctors prescribing tests without physical examination. A sample of the police form was also forwarded to ward officers but the proposal was called off. However, new BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal has reinforced the rule to stop unethical practices.

The BMC notice stated that all medical officers of health (MOH) of the 24 wards should follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) for swab testing. The ward officers will have to inform police to file FIR against the doctors if they are found violating the rules.

“If an MOH finds that local private medical practice is giving recommendation letters for swab testing to outside area persons without physical examination, then strict action may be taken against such doctors as show cause notice for cancellation for registration and to lodge an FIR in local police station,” reads the notice.



However, it has garnered much criticism from the medical fraternity, with the doctors terming the rule as “tyrannical” and “draconian”.

“This is unacceptable...we are putting our lives at risk to save people. A corporation can’t just decide to file an FIR against us. Also, cancellation of a licence is up to the medical council. BMC has no role or authority in it,” said Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra.

The Association of Medical Consultants, Mumbai, has written to the BMC commissioner seeking an exemption against the rule and said it contradicts the telemedicine policy of the central health department.

On March 21, when the Union health ministry issued the guidelines for Covid-19 testing in private laboratories, it had stated, “Laboratory test should only be offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per the ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research] guidelines.”

Dr Deepak Baid, president of the association, said, “Under telemedicine, a registered medical practitioner can evaluate and prescribe laboratory or radiology tests to suspected callers. In such a case, the doctors send the prescription through WhatsApp and emails. This is more effective and safer,” said Dr Baid.

Earlier this month, BMC was planning to bring such a rule when a doctor from Delhi prescribed Covid test to a Mumbai resident without a physician examination. The incident came to light after the private laboratory where the resident went for the test informed BMC officials.

Doctors found prescribing swab tests without examining patients could not only lose their licences, but will also face a criminal case under section 188 (disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Epidemic Act of 1897, the civic body’s notice, issued on Sunday, stated.

On May 7, HT was the first to report that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) was planning to file a first information report (FIR) against doctors prescribing tests without physical examination.

A sample of the police form was also forwarded to ward officers but the proposal was called off. However, new BMC commissioner Iqbal Chahal has reinforced the rule to stop unethical practices.

Despite repeated attempts, Chahal did not respond to calls.

The BMC notice stated that all medical officers of health (MOH) of the 24 wards should follow the standard operating procedure (SOP) for swab testing. The ward officers will have to inform police to file FIR against doctors if they are found violating the rules.

“If an MOH finds that private medical practice is giving recommendation letters for swab testing to outside area persons without physical examination, then strict action may be taken against such doctors as show cause notice for cancellation for registration and to lodge an FIR in local police station,” reads the notice.

However, it has garnered much criticism from the medical fraternity, with the doctors terming the rule as “tyrannical” and “draconian”.

“This is unacceptable...we are putting our lives at risk to save people. A corporation can’t just decide to file an FIR against us. Also, cancellation of a licence is up to the medical council. BMC has no role or authority in it,” said Dr Avinash Bhondwe, president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Maharashtra.

The Association of Medical Consultants, Mumbai, has written to the BMC commissioner seeking an exemption against the rule and said it contradicts the telemedicine policy of the central health department.

On March 21, when the Union health ministry issued the guidelines for Covid-19 testing in private laboratories, it had stated, “Laboratory test should only be offered when prescribed by a qualified physician as per the ICMR [Indian Council of Medical Research] guidelines.”

Dr Deepak Baid, president of the association, said, “Under telemedicine, a registered medical practitioner can evaluate and prescribe laboratory or radiology tests to suspected callers. In such a case, the doctors send the prescription through WhatsApp and emails. This is more effective and safer,” said Dr Baid.

Earlier this month, BMC was planning to bring such a rule when a doctor from Delhi prescribed Covid test to a Mumbai resident without a physician examination. The incident came to light after the private laboratory where the resident went for the test informed BMC officials.

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