Nationwide strike by radiologists imminent on September 1

PT Jyothi Datta Mumbai | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on August 30, 2016

IRIA wants the Government to “decriminalise” their profession and have a graded approach to punishment with minor clerical errors.

Seek graded penalties under Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act

Efforts to protect the birth of a girl child seem to be having an unexpected consequence on a section of medical professionals.

Over 13,000 radiologists are likely to go on strike and not operate their ultrasound services on September 1, protesting what they call the “harassment” of radiologists who do not have even a “remote connection with sex determination”. This would be followed by an indefinite strike from the next day, unless the Government steps in to resolve their concerns.

The PC & PNDT Act (Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection Act, 1994) prohibits gender determination of the baby to be born through techniques like ultrasonography, a move meant to ensure the birth of a girl child.

But a minor clerical error under the PC & PNDT Act could result in machines being sealed, registration cancelled, cases filed in court against the radiologist and imprisonment, says OP Bansal, President, Indian Radiological and Imaging Association (IRIA).

IRIA members have helped identify those indulging in illegal practices, Bansal told Business Line. The Government should have a graded approach to punishment with minor clerical errors like not wearing an apron or not keeping a copy of the Act being punished with smaller penalties, rather than raids and confiscation of equipment, he says.Once a radiologist is raided and equipment confiscated, the machine becomes junk in five years, which could be how long a case could take in Court, explains Bansal. And if the radiologist is found to be `not guilty’, then his reputation and practice have already been destroyed, he says.

However, Rizwan Parwez with Girls Count (a coalition of civil society organisations) says that the radiologists strike is not justified when the sex ratio in the country is not in favour of the girl child. Instead of seeking changes to the existing law, he says, the Association should focus on getting doctors to adhere to the law and improve their documentation. Field reports reveal that all the documentation just about helps regulate the sector better, he says, adding that it is difficult to get evidence on illegal practices.

Co-relate MTP

Clarifying that the radiologists were not advocating gender determination, Bansal suggests that the Government “co-relate” PNDT and the Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) Act, so they are able to track development of the baby till it is born, even as they protect the privacy of the mother and family. MTP largely takes place in the 12 to 16 week period of pregnancy and that needs to be monitored, he said. Like passengers are given a coded PNR, a similar system can be given to expectant mothers so the development and tests done during pregnancy etc can be tracked, he says.

Strike impact

Responding to the difficulties the proposed strike would have on regular patients since X-ray, MRI, CT scan services etc would not be available, Bansal says, emergency and in-hospital services and the Intensive Care Units would continue to function. No emergency cases will be denied, he adds.

Just two months ago, a similar strike in Maharashtra had been called off following the intervention of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and the promise of a committee to sort out the issue.

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Published on August 30, 2016
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