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Number of tests by 2 private labs at Mohalla clinics sees 80% dip since ACB report

May 13,2024

New Delhi: The number of pathological tests conducted by two private diagnostic laboratories at mohalla clinics has registered a decline of nearly 80 per cent since the anti-corruption branch of Delhi govt submitted its report on a preliminary enquiry into alleged irregularities to CBI in Feb this year.

According to a report prepared by the health and family welfare department of Delhi govt, linking Aadhaar with patients’ mobile numbers was made mandatory after an initial inquiry in Dec 2023 indicated the possibility of irregularities and ghost patients, which led to a huge drop in the number of path tests.

According to the report, both the number of patients tested and tests conducted at the two laboratories registered a sharp decline. Between Feb 2023 and April 2023, the two laboratories together tested 2,40,850 patients and conducted 7,52,186 tests. However, the number fell to 50,959 patients and 153,902 tests between Feb 2024 and April 2024 (till April 21).

AAP govt in Delhi has outsourced the lab investigation services to Agilus Diagnostics and Metropolis Healthcare for mohalla clinics and state-run dispensaries, hospitals and polyclinics. Anti-Corruption Bureau’s preliminary findings suggested a potential scam involving “fake or manipulated” tests.

When contacted, Delhi govt said there was a lot of pressure on doctors of mohalla clinics to reduce the number of pathological tests. It added that a number of patients from lower and middle-income groups were widely using the free pathological tests services of mohalla clinics and even those who were consulting central govt hospitals like AIIMS, Safdarjung and Ram Manohar Lohia were availing of this facility.

Agilus Diagnostics Ltd, in a statement, said that patient registration, including the linkage through Aadhaar or other IDs for each patient, was the responsibility of Delhi govt staff at health facilities. “Agilus Diagnostics solely manages the testing process for samples received at its laboratory from these health facilities. We would like to mention that there has been a significant increase in referrals and tests conducted since mid-March 2024,” the company said.

ACB had conducted an analysis of pathological tests done at the city’s mohalla clinics between Feb and Dec last year and found “massive irregularities”. The investigating agency, in its PE report, stated that the two pathological laboratories had together conducted nearly 2.2 million tests across the city between Feb and Dec 2023, of which at least 65,000 tests, out of a random sample of 1.15 lakh, were “found to be fake or manipulated”.

“There is a serious lapse/misconduct on the part of the district nodal officer, cluster in charge, and project director who failed to supervise and monitor the scrutiny of tests properly. The data indicates a massive fraud, manipulation of records by the outsourced labs with an intention to create a huge loss to the govt exchequer amounting to crores of rupees,” an ACB mentioned in the PE.

Following an impact assessment study conducted earlier in seven mohalla clinics by the health and family welfare department of Delhi govt, LG VK Saxena had recommended a CBI investigation into it. A separate inquiry by ACB was also recommended in the case.

According to ACB’s PE report, mentioning the name and mobile number of the patient was compulsory for making an entry in the Lab Information Management System, as the reports were also required to be sent to the registered mobile number. Since the system was designed and developed by the outsourced agencies, they had full control and access over the entire data.

“Hence, the possibility of manipulation of data by the outsourced lab vendors could not be ruled out,” the report added. ACB had also conducted random tele-verification of mobile numbers of patients at both private labs, which revealed that a large number of tests were conducted on either invalid mobile numbers or mobile numbers not related to the patients.

A large number of tests was allegedly done without the presence of treating doctors.

Source: Healthworld

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