Health Minister says will probe News Nation's 'Operation Jonk' medical fraud expose
Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan on Tuesday informed both houses of Parliament that his ministry does not accept the alleged medical fraud findings of the television channel News Nation achieved through its "Operation Jonk" expose.
In a statement delivered before members of both houses of Parliament, Dr. Harsh Vardhan said the two-hour-long programme titled "Operation Jonk" had sought to expose the secret deals struck between some dishonest medical practitioners and the managements of pathological laboratories and diagnostic centres in Delhi.
He said the programme appeared to employ classical sting operation techniques to rouse public consciousness on the allegedly unregulated state of affairs in an important segment of the medical economy.
He added that the programme showed the ease with which some doctors are suggested as collecting 30-50 percent commissions on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT Scans, ultra sound, routine pathological tests, etc. was captured through surreptitiously filmed conversations.
Some reputed diagnostic centres of Delhi, including its oldest standing one, were shown as involved in this nefarious racket," Dr. Harsh Vardhan said.
"The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare does not accept a broad-brush depiction of the medical community as guilty of such malpractices. However, it is felt that some individuals who are indulging in such unethical conduct should be identified and disqualified from practicing the noble profession of the physician," Dr. Harsh Vardhan said.
The three most important revelations of the programme are:
1. The racket is suggestive of an all pervasive, at least in the context of the national capital. Though doctors are not individually named, it should not be difficult to get to the facts because the programme has revealed that the commissions are paid through the issuance of monthly or weekly cheques.
2. The racket is leading to unjustified profit margins. This is apparent from the rate of commissions paid. In quite a few parts of the sting operation, the staff of the diagnostic centres reveal that they pay referring doctors as much as 50 percent commission on expensive tests like MRI. This indicates that even after paying the huge rate of commission these clinics report good profits.
3. A kind of cartelisation has resulted insofar as this aspect of the medical economy of Delhi is concerned. All the private laboratories and diagnostic centres charge roughly the same amounts for pathological tests and clinical examinations. Patients have no option but to pay up the exorbitant fees. They are also subjected to unnecessary tests by the doctors who are guided by the lucre of commissions. This exacerbates their physical and mental agony.
Dr. Harsh Vardhan said that his ministry accepts that the patient/consumer of the medical economy needs protection from such nefarious practices that have come to thrive under conditions created by lack of implementation of existing laws/rules/codes and insufficient governmental oversight.
He said that he has asked the Health Secretary to conduct an impartial inquiry to ascertain the facts brought out by the television programme.
He also revealed that the News Nation Channel has been requested to submit a DVD and a copy of the script to facilitate the inquiry.
(Posted on 22-07-2014)