Maharashtra plans law to ban kickbacks to doctors for referring patients
Mumbai city news: The government has appointed a nine-member committee under Pravin Dixit, former director general of police, to study laws against kickbacks in developed and developing countries and put together guidelines for the state.
The Maharashtra government announced on Saturday that it would create a new law to ban doctors from taking kickbacks from other doctors and hospitals to refer patients for advanced - and expensive - medical tests. Known as ‘cut practice’ in the medical community, it was the target of a recent billboard campaign by the Asian Heart Institute, Bandra-Kurla Complex.
The government has appointed a nine-member committee under Pravin Dixit, former director general of police, to study laws against kickbacks in developed and developing countries and put together guidelines for the state. A number of eminent doctors, and administrators of the Maharashtra Medical Council and Indian Medical Association are on the committee.
The law will be called the Cut practices in Medical Services Act, 2017. “We are at the initial stage of forming the guidelines. Our core job is to hold primary discussions and advise the state government on exploring ways to structure the law,” said Dr Avinash Supe, director, medical education and major hospitals, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, who is on the committee.
The act will make referring patients without any specific medical needs to doctors and hospitals a cognisable offence. If a certain doctor is violates the norms for more than three times, he or she will face punitive action. This will include fines between Rs 5,000 and Rs25,000, based on the number of violations.
However, experts said implemention, not legislation, would be the biggest hurdle. A committee member said, “Pinning down a medical practitioner will be tough. Every doctor has the right to use every diagnostic test, according to his medical notion about a certain patient. But with society resorting the violence and holding doctors responsible for medical complications, doctors nowadays take utmost care that nothing goes wrong while treating a patient.”
Another member said many doctors believe that after spending lacks on studying medicine and setting up hospitals or clinics, there is nothing wrong in earning money through referrals for unnecessary tests. “It’s not the view of the majority, and extremely wrong, ethically. Any law that seeks to restricts doctors from doing so needs to have the power of implementation to be successful,” said the member.
A source confirmed that the state government had taken notice of Asian Heart Institute’s campaign. ‘Honest opinions, say no to commissions,’ read one of the 10 billboards the hospital put up across the city.
Dr Ramakant Panda, managing director of Asian Heart Institute, also wrote a letter signed by 50 in-house doctors to the MMC, the state health minister and medical education minster on June 14. He wrote that ‘cut practice’ was prevalent and that it had become difficult for doctors and hospitals to pursue the profession honestly.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA) had critised the campaign, calling its message an “insult” to the medical community. It lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Council of India on June 13, saying the advertisements were in poor taste and offensive to the medical profession.
“The hoarding suggested that all hospitals except the Asian Heart Institute accepted commissions and indulged in cut practice,” said Dr Jayesh Lele, an IMA member.