Two hospitals withdraw ads after medical councils crack the whip

The Medical Council of India (MCI) and Delhi Medical Council (DMC) have directed two private hospitals in the capital to withdraw advertisements issued in national dailies naming their specialists along with photographs. The hospitals were also directed to publish a corrigendum in the same ad space and size in the same dailies.

The councils cracked the whip reiterating the code of conduct rules of 2002 for doctors, which prohibit "soliciting patients directly or indirectly", by any physician or institution.

On August 23, Saket City Hospital published an advertisement in The Times of India with pictures of six doctors from its department of pulmonology and critical care under a heading "Breathe Easy...with our renowned team..." A text section below the photographs added that the "expert" team "has created an ensemble for achieving excellence", and "the experienced and renowned team of experts strive to deliver the best standards".

Earlier this year, on May 15, the Nova Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital published an advertisement in the Hindustan Times, under the heading "Nova welcomes aboard India's distinguished orthopaedic surgeons". The ad had names and photographs of seven doctors and their area of specialisation. A text section of the advertisement said "India's pre-eminent and experienced surgeons..." "... are now at Nova Orthopaedic and Spine Hospital, the premier institute for orthopaedics, spine and rheumatology".

DMC secretary Dr Girish Tyagi said, "Self-publicity and promotion of doctors, with names or photographs, to invite patients is prohibited in the code of medical ethics in the the Indian Medical Council Regulations of 2002. We first received a complaint about the Nova centre advertisement, so we issued them a notice. They gave us an explanation, which we did not find satisfactory. So on August 23, we issued a letter asking them to withdraw this advertisement. They did so on September 11."

Dr Tyagi said when Saket hospital published a similar advertisement on the same day the DMC issued the letter to Nova centre, the MCI took suo motu cognisance of it and sent a notice to the Saket hospital, following which the hospital was asked to withdraw the advertisement.

On Tuesday, September 24, Saket City Hospital published its corrigendum in The Times of India stating that "Reference to the Delhi Medical Council letter..." "..the advertisement published on August 23, is hereby withdrawn."

Likewise, on September 11, Nova hospital published a corrigendum in Hindustan Times referring to the same DMC letter stating that "the advertisement published on May 15 is hereby withdrawn."

Alok Khanna, vice-president (sales & marketing), Saket City Hospital, said, "We have followed the directions of the MCI, and published a corrigendum as directed."

Authorities of Nova hospital declined comment.

"MCI rules are redundant... So many hospitals want to give a face to their institution, and are publishing such ads. MCI is only cracking the whip on some hospitals. They should see if the rules need changing," a senior executive from one of the hospitals said.

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