MBBS doctors get clearer rules for sonography



A recent amendment in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PCPNDT) Act allows medical practitioners (MBBS doctors) to conduct sonography tests on pregnant women, provided they undergo six months' training imparted within the well-defined syllabus prescribed by the act at accredited institutions.

In addition to addressing the shortage of radiologists, the move will also help authorities shut down unauthorized training centres mushrooming across the country that offer training in obstetric sonography.

Government hospitals in rural areas will also get the trained staff to conduct obstetric sonography as medical officers at these hospitals will be imparted the six months' training on priority.

The syllabus and clear-cut guidelines on who will undergo training and who will be exempt will help appropriate authorities enforce the act effectively, thereby curbing malpractices in the field.

"The Union ministry of health and family welfare issued a gazette notification on January 10, 2014 relating to the amendment of rule 3(3)(1)(b) of the PCPNDT Act to incorporate a mandatory six months' training in ultrasound sonography. This will regularise training in ultrasound sonography for MBBS doctors," senior gynaecologist Sanjay Gupte, a member of the Central Supervisory Board (CSB), said.

The CSB reviews and monitors the implementation of the Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994 and advises the centre on policy matters.

Till now, only gynaecologists and radiologists with post-graduate medical qualifications were allowed to perform ultrasound sonography on pregnant women. The Act also allowed MBBS doctors with six months' training to conduct sonography but there had been a lot of ambiguity about the training aspects.

"The syllabus of the six months' training was not defined. There had also been some confusion on who should conduct the training and where and a number of unauthorised centres had sprung up across the country. All this is now expected to stop," Gupte added.

Senior radiologist, Jignesh Thakker of the Indian Radiology and Imaging Association (IRIS) said that unauthorised centre offering six months training would have to shut shop. "There are a lot of such centres that follow their own syllabus and dole out training certificates to doctors. There are around 20,000 radiologists in the country and this amendment will help make available more doctors trained in obstetrics sonography who can work in rural interiors of the country."

Thakker, however, pointed out some grey areas in the amendment. "If you see the components of the syllabus, the doctors will also be trained in sonography of other body parts, like detecting abdomen ailments, renal stone etc. The Union health ministry wants these trained doctors to also work in emergency situations. Now, who will check if doctors trained in the prescribed syllabus don't conduct sonography of other body parts as well? It is not mentioned anywhere in the amendment that the six months' training is meant only for obstetric sonography. It also does not mention that the trained doctors would work in rural areas. There is no justification for making an amendment except for the training part," he said.

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