TV Sting Exposes Corruption in Healthcare

Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Laboratories allegedly offer a kickback of 40-50 per cent to doctors who referred patients for medical tests (photo: Hindustan Times)

The Health Ministry has ordered an investigation into doctors and laboratories allegedly offering commissions to doctors for referring patients for medical tests. This follows a sting operation by a Hindi news channel News Nation TV.

The two-hour long program showed laboratories in Delhi allegedly offering a kickback of 40 to 50 per cent to doctors who referred patients to their diagnostic centres. According to the report, tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scans, ultra sound, and routine pathological tests, are sometimes prescribed even when not required.

According to consultancy firm PwC, the fastest growing segment of India’s healthcare industry is the diagnostic market, which is forecast to grow to $17 billion by 2021 from $3.4 billion in 2011.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has vowed to clean up the health system, which he says is riddled with corruption, a problem that pervades much of public life in India.

"Doctors should treat News Nation TV expose on commissions/kickback as a wake up call," he wrote on his Twitter account.

India was ranked 94th in a list of 177 countries on Transparency International's 2013 global corruption index, worse off than fellow BRICS countries China, South Africa and Brazil.

Officials at one laboratory visited by News Nation's undercover reporters claimed they paid commissions to 10,000 doctors, with monthly payments allegedly running into tens of thousands of rupees for some neurosurgeons who prescribe expensive tests.

“Some reputed diagnostic centres of Delhi, including its oldest standing one, were shown as involved in this nefarious racket," Vardhan told Parliament on Tuesday.

According to Reuters, leading doctors and advocacy groups in India have teamed up recently to try to remove corruption from healthcare, by forming anti-graft panels at hospitals and writing open letters to the Health Ministry.

"You can't make a difference in one day," said Balram Bhargava, a doctor who has forming a 'Society for Less Investigative Medicine' at the premier All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). "It has to be a gradual process."

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