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CUT PRACTICE & MORE

P A Francis
Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

The Maharashtra government is reported to have decided to introduce a new legislation namely “Cut Practices in Medical Services Act, 2017” to prevent this unethical practice prevailing in the medical profession in the state. It is a practice of offering commission to physicians and surgeons by the diagnostic centres for referring patients to their establishments. The practice is prevalent all over the country and there has been no attempt to curb it by any regulatory authorities. The state government has set up a 9-member committee to study similar regulations for preventing cut practices in the US and UK and suggest measures to be incorporated in to the proposed Act. The committee was formed subsequent to a representation made by Dr Ramakant Panda of Asian Heart Institute to Directorate of Medical Education and Research over rampant growth of cut practice amongst doctors in the state. Dr. Panda and some of the prominent city doctors who have taken up this campaign, are of the view that doctors are forced to indulge in this practice because of the pressure from other members in this profession. As this practice is not confined to Maharashtra only, similar initiatives need to be taken by doctors in other parts of the country and state governments.
 
With the sharp rise in infectious and lifestyle diseases in the country there has been a steady increase in the diagnostic centres and pathology labs during the last 20 years. Now after the entry of a number of diagnostic chains in recent years, the competition within the diagnostic industry has also become intense. And there has been no uniform standards laid down by the health authorities for these centres and labs. Inducements to doctors by way of gifts and cash for prescribing expensive drugs by the pharmaceutical companies is another issue the government has been trying to find a solution for some time. Centre’s recent direction to medical practitioners to prescribe medicines in generic names is one such move. But, the government has been finding it almost impossible to implement this direction as most in the medical profession oppose it. These regulatory steps are extremely important in the healthcare sector in India to bring down the treatment costs to the patients.  Growing presence of private sector in hospital and diagnostic sectors has worsened healthcare scene further as the sole motive of these private investors has become maximization of profits within a short time. And only very few private hospital managements follow the practice of offering free or subsidized medical services to poor patients in the country. With the current rate of population growth and growing spurt in infectious and lifestyle diseases overall disease burden is going to be heavy in the coming years. In the absence of inadequate spending on public healthcare infrastructure by the Centre and most of the state governments, this challenge is going to be much bigger and private sector is going to dominate the healthcare scene. If that is going to be the scenario, targets set in the National Health Policy and approved by the Union Cabinet in last March will never be achieved.

 

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