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Mumbai civic body withdraws notice sent to doctor for prescribing Covid-19 swab test

The physician himself was quarantined for 14 days, after he had been exposed to an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient.

Updated: May 25, 2020 10:11 IST

By Rupsa Chakraborty, Hindustan Times Mumbai

A doctor takes a swab sample of a resident during a coronavirus testing drive inside the Dharavi slums in Mumbai. (Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

A day after HT had reported that a Ghatkopar physician was issued a show-cause notice for prescribing a coronavirus swab test to an asymptomatic patient, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on Sunday has withdrawn the notice amid widespread criticism from the medical fraternity.

As per the notice issued by Ajit Ambi, the assistant municipal commissioner of N ward, Dr Chetan Velani was found violating the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897; the Disaster Management Act, 2005, as well as the guidelines issued by BMC over Covid-19 testing. Stating that prescribing the swab test to an asymptomatic patient was in violation of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the civic body notice said Dr Velani’s licence would be cancelled if he failed to respond within 24 hours of receiving the letter. Ambi did not respond to HT’s calls.

Dr Velani has refuted BMC’s allegations. “On Sunday, when I asked BMC to provide the details of the asymptomatic patient [who was allegedly prescribed the swab test], they couldn’t give me any information. Why would I waste the government’s resources if the patient is not a Covid suspect?”

The physician himself was quarantined for 14 days, after he had been exposed to an asymptomatic Covid-19 patient.



“The government should give some freedom to doctors on identifying the Covid patients. What if I don’t prescribe a swab test to a suspected patient and he dies owing to health complications? Then they will impose a medico-legal case on us,” said Dr Velani.

Other doctors, too have come out in Dr Velani’s support. Dr Deepak Baid, president of Association of Medical Consultants, said that the physician did not violate any rule, as he prescribed the swab test after physically examining the patient.

“ICMR wants us to wait until the patient shows symptoms. In the meantime, their health conditions keep deteriorating and the virus is transmitted to others, too. Instead of threatening us for doing our duty, the government should do theirs and provide us with PPE [personal protective equipment] to work,” he said.

According to the rules of the Indian Medical Council (IMC), only the apex body holds the power to cancel the licence of a doctor. The corporation can’t cancel the registration of any doctor registered with the medical council. We are the only authorised body,” said Dr Shivkumar Utture, president of Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC).

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