Students get into the (PCPNDT) act at Sassoon, as doc goes missing


Students get into the (PCPNDT) act at Sassoon, as doc goes missing
(FILE PHOTO)
Dept’s lapse has now come under the state’s scanner, as PMC caught napping on the task yet again.

The different government arms have tightened their stranglehold on private hospitals’ and clinics’ sonography operations, under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) Act, as was evident from the recent sentencing of doctors of Aditya Birla Memorial Hospital earlier this month to a year’s imprisonment for failing to fill out the mandatory F-form before conducting the procedures. However, this vigil is conspicuously missing, it seems, over the state-run institutions such as Sassoon General Hospital, where sonographies are being regularly conducted by unqualified medical students, who are not only clueless of the stringent Act but also unable to fill out the quintessential form. Most of the forms go unsigned as the head of the radiology department, Dr Meenakshi Wahane, is never available.

After years of operating in such an illegal manner with complete impunity, the department’s felonious approach has finally caught the notice of the State advocate and counsellor of PCPNDT Act, Varsha Deshpande, after three visits to the hospital in the past three months. “Not a single qualified doctor (with MBBS) is conducting the sonographies. The head of the department and professor of radiology is always absent. Whenever questioned about her lack of presence, I was informed she is busy at her own hospital. This is even more questionable. How can a person holding permanent employment with the government hospital be missing in action as she tends to her private practice? In her absence sonographies are going unrecorded, conducted by students, unaware of the PCPNDT Act. This is absolutely shameful,” Deshpande told Mirror.

When quizzed how this escaped her notice before, she rebutted, “This should not have required my intervention. It should have been done by the Pune Municipal Corporation’s (PMC’s) PCPNDT cell. Due to the repeated political interference by people such as Ajit Pawar and Vandana Chavan, the PMC officials are wary of running raids on the hospital, which is probably why the issue got ignored so far.”

Caught napping, Dr Vaishali Jadhav, PCPNDT cell head at PMC and assistant director, PMC’s health department insisted, “We have been taking cognisance of their (Sassoon’s) irregularities and asking them to rectify the mistakes.” But when probed on the elements her department had taken up with the hospital, her defence collapsed. “I am unable to recollect,” was her lame excuse. It may be recalled that the Aditya Birla doctors faced action due to a strident role played out by Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation.

When Mirror discussed the issue with the resident doctors who are conducting the sonographies and CT scans, they admitted that while they are handling the operations, their knowledge of the relevant Act is negligible and yet they are left with no option but to sign the Form Fin the absence of their head of the department, who is the only authorised signatory. However, none of them were willing to speak up against her on record for fear of retribution.

Meanwhile, Deshpande not only brought the matter to Sassoon’s dean’s notice but also placed a formal complaint before the State health department, which runs a toll-free number for PCPNDT cases. “The hospital which handles large number of patients cannot take its responsibility so callously. I have also written to the State family welfare department. Now we await the action the authorities will take against the hospital,” she said.

“The complaint against Sassoon came as a shock. We could not have imagined the hospital flouting on such basic mandates of the PCPNDT Act. We will be acting soon on this complaint and will run our own checks using decoy in the next few days,” informed Dr Asaram Khade, state consultant PCPNDT, who heads the tollfree number of the state department.

Interestingly, the Sassoon administration does not exactly seem caught off-guard by the complaints emerging. “We will be calling all our students working in the radiology diagnostic department and insist they sign an affidavit that they are well aware of PCPNDT Act and its implications,” Sassoon’s dean, Dr Ajay Chandanwale, revealed. Besides forcing declaration on his students he also offered to question Dr Wahane about her irregularities and the consequences her absence is inflicting on the department. As for the lady in question, Dr Meenakshi Wahane, sought to justify the way her department is being run by blaming the administration. “We are understaffed. We have been asking for the nursing staff to stock the Form F and send them to the State health department’s PCPNDT cell, a data entry operator, a registrar to maintain the records and four lecturers. We know ignoring the PCPNDT Act can attract three-year imprisonment. But the dean also needs to appreciate this and be supportive. We do 250 sonographies in a day and almost 50 per cent of them are gynaecological. Our students are left with no recourse but to fill the forms themselves when I am away on lectures,” Wahane told Mirror.

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