dna found that this illegal practice is rampant in Thane, Navi Mumbai, Panvel, and Borivli.
Siddik Shaikh, 24, went for a routine urine test at Seema Clinical Laboratory in Thane's Lokmanya Nagar, following his physician Dr Pradeep Bhave's advice. He had fever for over a week.
Neeta Shedge who signed his urine report holds a diploma in medical lab technology (DMLT). The medical council of India (MCI) doesn't allow such diploma holders to sign reports. They can only assist qualified pathologists. MBBS doctors need to do a postgraduation in pathology to become a pathologist, recognised by the MCI.
Speaking to dna, Shedge said matter-of-factly: "I am trying to appoint a pathologist in my laboratory but nobody wants to come on board. So, I sign the reports."
Not far from Seema Clinical Laboratory is Health Berries Diagnostics. Lab technicians Smitesh Salvi and Vinod Parekh sign all reports giving their name and qualification, clearly violating MCI guidelines.
Taking a random urine report as an example, dna contacted the lab's owner, Ajay Ubale. "We don't have a pathologist in our lab and there is always a flurry of patients," he said. "So, our lab technicians sign reports."
Envee Pathological laboratory in Dombivli's Datta Nagar Chowk is another lab where technician KN Prem signs reports. dna has a copy of chemical and microscopic urine examination reports of a 24-year-old woman Sunita Patil with Prem's signature.
According to the Maharashtra Association of Practicing Pathologists and Microbiologists (MAPPM), an umbrella body of qualified pathologists, there are more than 15,000 path labs across the state, of which 1600 operate out of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane.
In an ideal state of affairs, lab technicians are supposed to only collect samples. "They don't have the know-how of pathology. Legally, they cannot carry out any investigation, forget signing reports," Dr Rajesh Mane, secretary, MAPPM, said. "Those who are doing this [signing reports] are playing with the lives of people.
"Many a times, a wrong analysis can result in false positives of dengue or malaria. Not only will it scare a patient, but it will also lead to wrong treatment. Technicians are known to manipulate blood reports. But the government is turning a blind eye and ignoring the problem."
Dr Shivkumar Utture, MCI's executive member, said lab technicians are not authorised to certify any pathology report. "The MCI has passed directives on this matter several times in the past."
What does the law say
- Pathology is part of modern medicine. MCI allows only registered medical practitioners holding a PG degree in pathology to practise it
- Maharashtra Medical Council (MMC) too endorses it
- Bombay HC in 2005 ruled only qualified pathologists, recognised by the MCI and the MMC, can certify pathology reports