07 January 2012
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi India
You must have heard of doctors being on–call. But, are you aware of diagnostic and imaging machines like a portable ultrasound?
An increasing number of portable ultrasound machines are being registered as being “on call”, or the devices could be taken anywhere anytime to conduct an ultrasound test.
Delhi was the first state to register such “on–call” portable ultrasound machines, a trend that has now spread across the country.
The Union health ministry says the trend is in violation of the Pre–conception and Pre–natal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNDT Act), which allows ultrasound machines to be portable only within the premises of hospital or clinic registered under the Act. The ministry has mooted a proposal to ban such “on call” machines — a move crucial to save the girl child. It will be taken up at the Central Supervisory Board (CSB) meeting in Mumbai on January 14.
CSB is headed by Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and his counterpart in the women and child welfare ministry Krishna Tirath.
The board is responsible for overlooking the stringent implementation of the PNDT Act that bans female feticide.
“When somebody registers a clinic, they have to on paper mention the doctor who will operate the machine and mention the model of the machine being used. The person may have a portable ultrasound machine. He or she then offers his or services to other clinics not having an ultrasound machine or to gynecologists visited by pregnant mothers, saying they would conduct ultrasound tests on demand and be on call,” an official said.
The official added, “Such portable machines are being taken in two–wheelers to conduct the sex determination of an unborn child. We have found such machines hid under beds in Haryana. According to the Act, even if a portable machine is used, the vehicle needs to be registered and should be a mobile clinic providing a bouquet of medical services.”
Though, Delhi has banned registering “on call” machines, no concrete action to track and stop the use of these machines has been taken yet.
CSB is also looking at putting an end to multiple registrations of doctors at various ultrasound clinics.
“We recently found 21 ultrasound machines registered under a single doctor. This means these clinics have been individually opened with one single radiologist manning it. How can one doctor operate 21 machines at the same time?” a ministry official asked. CSB will decide how much time should a single radiologist spend in a clinic and how many s/he can be a part of.
The ministry has written to the ministry of information technology to block all websites advertising sex–selection techniques. India has about 35,000 ultrasound clinics. Earlier, studies had said about 5–7 lakh girls a year, or 2,000 girls a day go missing in India due to female feticide.
Census 2011 showed that India’s child–sex ratio had dipped to 914 girls against 927 per 1,000 boys recorded in Census 2001 — the worst dip since 1947. India has shortlisted 18 states that are worst affected.