Our country has shortage of specialist doctors to work in diagnostic laboratories; this deficiency can be ably compensated by the trained medical M.Sc degree holders. The recent letter written by the Medical Council of India (MCI) to National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) regarding eligibility to sign diagnostic laboratory reports has not gone down well with the biomedical scientists possessing medical M.Sc degree. Currently, the document 112 of NABL provides authorized signatory roles for Medical M.Sc degree holders, in the disciplines of Microbiology and Biochemistry. Ostensibly, under the pressure from non-clinical doctors, NABL was pressurized to exclude non-doctors from this role. In its part, NABL chose to seek the opinion from the MCI. After a delay of nearly three years, MCI replied that all lab reports should be signed/countersigned by persons registered with MCI/State Medical Council.
This is in stark contrast to its previous stand. In 2005, the members of the Adhoc Committee appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court and of the Executive Committee of the MCI had approved the decision of the Ethics Committee that M.Sc. (Medical Biochemistry) with or without Ph.D is entitled to independently or solely sign a Medical Biochemistry report in a clinical laboratory. In a bizarre U-turn, the Executive Committee of the MCI has claimed that it did not approve the recommendations of the Ethics Committee. “It is very unethical of the MCI to overrule the recommendations of the Ethics Committee”, said Dr. Sridhar Rao, President of National M.Sc Medical Teachers’ Association (NMMTA). MCI has claimed that organizations like hospitals and nursing homes are beyond the jurisdiction of MCI. “How can diagnostic laboratories attached to hospitals and nursing homes fall under MCI’s jurisdiction”, wondered DR. Rao. “Worldwide biomedical scientists are held in high esteem and allowed to sign reports”, added Dr. Rao.
Mr. Arjun Maitra, secretary, NMMTA said “Even though the MCI’s letter was in the context of the NABL accredited laboratories only, it is having far-reaching and unintended effects”. It is being widely misconstrued as MCI’s order to all diagnostic laboratories. This letter is also being misused to evict biomedical scientists from laboratories attached to medical colleges. With no clarification coming from the MCI, India’s biomedical scientists are obviously alarmed with the fear of losing livelihood and dignity. “We are being disallowed to practice in the area we were trained in”.
“There is a huge misconception and lack of awareness about the nature of medical M.Sc degree. Like MD degrees, clinical diagnostic laboratory testing and interpretation is an integral part of the medical M.Sc courses in Biochemistry and Microbiology”, he added.
“Services in the diagnostic laboratory should not be misinterpreted as the practice of medicine”, he added. “Doctors with MBBS degree only can interpret basic laboratory tests whereas special tests need understanding at a postgraduate level, such as those with MD or medical M.Sc degree” said Mr. Maitra. As a representation of biomedical scientists engaged in healthcare, NMMTA is planning to meet the Prime Minister and the health Minister to convince them the importance of biomedical scientists in the diagnostic laboratories.
National M.Sc Medical Teachers’ Association (NMMTA) is a registered association of persons possessing medical M.Sc degrees in the subjects of Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pharmacology or Microbiology obtained under the faculty of medicine from MCI-recognized medical colleges.