Delhi government has decided to outsource high-end imaging and diagnostic services to select private diagnostic centres. These include PET CT scan, CT with contrast and MRI. Speaking to TOI, health minister Satyendar Jain on Friday said the decision was aimed at ensuring availability of free diagnostic services to all patients.
“At present, there is a long waiting period for CT scan and MRIs. In many hospitals, either machines are not in the working condition or there is work-overload, leading to delays,” Jain said. The minister clarified that as streamlining the existing system may take longer, the decision to empanel private diagnostic centres was taken for immediate relief to patients.
In December, the government had identified seven private centres accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare (NABH) for free CT scan and MRIs. Jain said they are roping in 13 more centres — some of them CGHS-approved — for a wide range of diagnostic services, including PET CT, echocardiography and radio-nucleotide scan. “Doctors at 30 state-run hospitals and 23 polyclinics can refer patients to these private centres for tests. We will reimburse them for the cost incurred as per pre-determined rates,” the minister said.
Asked about financial implications of the move, officials in state health department said money saved from timely construction of flyovers would be used to fund the scheme. The facilities will be available only to residents of Delhi. “We cannot cater to everyone. These are costly tests and making it free for everyone may make the project totally unviable,” an official said.
There have been complaints that most big government hospitals in Delhi do not have enough diagnostic facilities and even the available ones don’t work most of the time. For ultrasound, the waiting time is 90 days whereas CT scan takes around 40-45 days. An MRI, on the other hand, may take up to three years. Also, the MRI facility is available only in Lok Nayak hospital.
PET CT, an important diagnostic tool for cancer treatment, has been installed recently at Delhi State Cancer Institute
A senior doctor, who did not want to be identified, said the move was a populist one and could have huge financial implications. “Hundreds of radiologists employed with hospitals will have little to do after this,” he said. Maulana Azad Medical College and University College of Medical Sciences that are associated with Lok Nayak, GB Pant and GTB hospitals have radiology courses. He added that the government should instead focus on buying new machines and streamlining infrastructure within the hospital system. “Super-speciality hospitals like GB Pant and GTB should be equipped with diagnostic facilities. They have indoor patients who cannot be referred to private centres outside for tests,” he added.