Health ministry plans to cap charges of lab tests & surgeries

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Close on the heels of capping prices of stents, Union health ministry is planning to cap pricing of various laboratory tests and medical procedures to rein in their exorbitant prices as well as to regulate quality and integrity of lab test reports.

The health ministry has written to state governments asking them to come up with minimum and maximum prices of various medical procedures and path lab tests. The maximum rate of such procedures will be fixed by the ministry following the responses from the state governments.

The government has issued a notification regarding minimum standards of path labs. The path labs covered under Clinical Establishment Act will have to comply with it. This is aimed at regulating quality of lab tests. As per the notification, the path labs have been divided into three categories viz. basic, medium, advanced. The division has been made on the basis of number of employees, infrastructure, medical equipment. The path labs will have to keep record of medical tests. This will lead to a decline in unnecessary medical tests.

Maharashtra Association of Practitioners in Pathology and Microbiology (MAPPM) which has been demanding action against illegal path labs mushrooming in the state has said that the quality of lab test reports can be ensured if the lab is run by a medical practitioner with specialisation in pathology and registered with a medical council.

In Maharashtra, as of date, there are thousands of technicians (with DMLT or equivalent degrees) who are not registered with the Maharashtra Medical Council running pathology laboratories independently without the presence of any registered and qualified pathologist. This is in violation of Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act 1961. These pathology laboratories are illegal and such illegal and bogus medical practice causes harm to the general public. More than 60 to 70 per cent of these laboratories are mushrooming in urban areas. Allowing to operate these laboratories is a major public health hazard and in fact, the wrong reports from these laboratories are responsible for economic hardships to the patients, said Dr Sandeep Yadav, president of MAPPM.

Such persons who are not registered with the medical council and practicing pathology are quacks and are liable to be prosecuted as per the Maharashtra Medical Practitioners Act 1961, Section 33(1). The penalty for such quackery is laid down in Section 33(2) of the above act, he said.

As per the Medical Council of India (MCI), diploma in medical lab technology (DMLT) holders can not sign medical test reports. They can only assist qualified pathologists. MBBS doctors are required to do a post graduation in pathology to become a pathologist, recognised by the MCI.

Several high courts in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh have also upheld the MCI guidelines.

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