Mumbai: More than 20,000 radiologists across the country are on the warpath and have decided to go on an indefinite strike from Thursday (September 1) to protest against the act that is being used to harass doctors even for minor clerical errors.
According to Dr Samir Gandhi of the Indian Radiological and Imaging Association, the PCPNDT Act, which is supposed to be a deterrent against sex determination is actually making it difficult for radiologists to carry out their normal work. “We wish to make it clear that we are totally in favour of banning sex determination tests and want to improve the sex ratio in our community,” he said. But the fact is that the only thing being done with this act is to punish doctors for minor clerical errors and hold them guilty even before establishing their mistakes.
The strike is being supported by several medical associations like the Indian Medical Association, the Association of Medical Consultants and Association of Fellow Gynaecologists among others. The doctors said that they have been talking with the government for the last five years to get this act amended but nothing has come out of this, Dr Gandhi said.
He pointed out that the provisions of this act are such that the doctor in question is held guilty till he proves himself to be innocent, which is contrary to the Constitution. “In fact, immediately after the administration files a case against a doctor under this act, a letter is sent to the medical council to cancel his license to practice,” Dr Gandhi explained. Around 95% of the cases that are filed under this act are in fact for clerical errors and the remaining cases are where there are quacks and non-qualified doctors using unregistered machines.
Commenting on this subject, Dr Sudhi Naik, of the AMC said that while the act is supposed to prevent sex determination tests, taking action against doctors does not serve this purpose at all. “Therefore, our main demand is that we call on the administration to decriminalise the paperwork deficiencies and not to equate them with sex determination,” he pointed out. Other doctors pointed out that there are scenarios where a woman gets married and changes her address and in some cases also changes her name, and this does not get reflected in the documents. But it is the radiologist who is held responsible where there is any clerical error spotted by the government officials.
The doctors however pointed out that government centres that carry out these tests have been exempted from the strike, since they do not want patients to suffer. “The situation has become so difficult for radiologists that many of them would prefer to shut down their centres rather than face harassment and even jail for minor errors,” he said.
On their part, the radiologists have been approaching and talking to ministers and other officials in the Central Government but have not received any response from them. “Therefore, we are now forced to go on strike as a last resort,” Dr Naik said.