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Private lab in RIMS bill mess

Norms flouted for tests for the poor, Rs 4 crore stuck

  • Published 8.07.16
The Medall lab at RIMS in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh

Ranchi, July 7: Bills worth Rs 4 crore of a private company, assigned by the state government to conduct pathological tests at various government hospitals, including Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), aren't being cleared over a dispute concerning services to the underprivileged.

Medall Diagnostics, under the banner of Medall Healthcare Private Ltd, has been operating since August 2015 in 12 districts, namely, Lohardaga, Gumla, Khunti, Simdega, Palamau, Garhwa, Latehar, East Singhbhum, West Singhbhum and Seraikela and Kharswan, in addition to MGM Hospital, Jamshedpur and RIMS, Ranchi.

As per its May 8, 2016 agreement, Medall will pay the state government Rs 1.81 crore this year with a 6.5 per cent annual escalation henceforth. In return the state would provide it space, water and power connections. Medall is supposed to conduct diagnostic tests and offer free services to the underprivileged only for tests that aren't available at respective district hospitals.

While the number of such tests are more in the districts, it is not so in Ranchi and Jamshedpur.

Yet, of the Rs 4 crore due to Medall, Rs 2.5 crore pertain to tests conducted at RIMS.

A RIMS official explained the issue. At RIMS, he said, three underprivileged categories of people were eligible for free treatment and tests. But they needed to obtain an NOC from the deputy superintendent (Dr Basundhara Kumari or Dr Sudipto in her absence) on their prescriptions. Any pathological test conducted without the nod of the deputy superintendent was unauthorised and, therefore, not free.

"Hence, for passing Medall's bills, there are two clauses; first, the tests conducted by it should not be available at RIMS and second, the permission for free tests must have the deputy superintendent's nod," he explained.

Joint secretary in the health department Sudhir Kumar Ranjan admitted that Medall's bills were pending, but added that the state government wasn't involved. "Why should the health department foot the bill for patients treated at RIMS? We give around Rs 50 crore annually to RIMS as grant in aid. It should pay Medall from this. But, all said and done, such payments should be made judiciously by RIMS," he explained.

A senior official, handling finances and accounts at RIMS, said his hands were tied and that he couldn't possibly clear the bills without a nod from his superiors.

""How can I sign on bills that will jeopardise my career? RIMS cannot pay Medall for conducting pathological tests that are available here, even if they have done it for free. I need it in writing from my superiors to clear these bills," he said.

Deputy general manager (operations) of Medall Bhaskar S said he was hopeful that the dispute over the bills would be resolved soon. There is some confusion which we will sort out soon," he told The Telegraph.