Doctors’ commission set to be cut in Maharashtra
The state’s medical education department has now drafted a bill, Prevention of Cut Practice in Health Care Services Act, 2017 that is likey to be tabled in the winter session of the state legislatureUpdated: Sep 05, 2017 00:07 IST
One of the notorious practices in the medical profession, termed as ‘cut practice’, will soon be illegal in the state, with offenders liable to face maximum imprisonment of up to five years, if found guilty.
Cut practice refers to unethical methods where patients are referred to specific hospitals, pathology laboratories to undergo tests, examinations, in exchange for a certain commission to the referral physician. There is often a close nexus between laboratories, hospitals and doctors, who indulge in this practice.
The state’s medical education department has now drafted a bill, Prevention of Cut Practice in Health Care Services Act, 2017 against this cut practice. The bill is likely to be tabled in the winter session of the state legislature.
The proposed legislation covers hospitals, maternity homes, nursing homes, dispensaries, clinics, sanatoriums or an institution by whatever name that offers medical services, facilities, apart from doctors. The bill has proposed that doctors found involved in such a racket, depending on the nature of their offence, can also lose their licence for a period of three months, along with a penalty of Rs50,000.
Under this legislation, anyone can complain against this practice to the anti-corruption bureau (ACB). The ACB will inquire into the veracity and genuineness of the complaint within three months. The authority has been granted powers to search, seize and arrest under this legislation, during its investigations. Once an investigation is complete, the ACB will file a complaint and all such cases will be tried under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, says the draft bill, which will now be uploaded on the website of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) calling suggestions and objections from the people. The state government can also suo motu initiate proceedings against a health care service provider for ‘cut practice’, the draft bill states.
Sources said there will be two types of action in such cases — civil and criminal. For doctors registered with the Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC), the latter will initiate an inquiry after receiving a complaint and take action such as suspension of licence for minimum period of three months, if the allegations are found to be true, which will be called as civil action. But for those who are not registered with the MMC, the ACB will start its probe and initiate action. Similarly, the MMC can also recommend criminal action against its doctors if it finds the offence to be serious.
Girish Mahajan, state medical education minister, said the practice has unnecessarily increased the cost of health care services ultimately putting a burden on the common man.
“We have taken all the people concerned, including the Indian Medical Association, MMC, private practitioners and non-governmental organisations working in this field into consideration before preparing the draft bill. It will also be uploaded on the website for public suggestions,” Mahajan told HT.
The issue of cut practice came to the fore after the BKC-based Asian Heart Institute put up a hoarding that read ‘Honest opinion, No commission’, which according to the Indian Medical Association — India’s largest body of doctors — brought disrepute to the profession. The medical education department then had formed a nine-member committee, which drafted this bill.
Dr Pravin Shingare, director, Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) and one of the committee members, said the draft will remain in the public domain for two to three weeks and based on the suggestions and objections, changes will be made to the bill. This will be done before the bill is submitted to the government for a final nod.
Dr Abhay Chowdhary, former director of the Haffkine Institute and administrator of the MMC said the council is committed to ethical practices in the profession, but cut practices are prevalent. “The only concern in the fraternity is that the bill should not be misused. Some doctors feel it would be unfair if outsiders, not from within the profession, are asked to make judgement calls about our practices or a genuine referral is treated as mischievous. However, the draft bill considers such issues,” Chowdhary told HT.