Online Health Services Shouldn’t Mislead Citizens On Blood Sample Collection: High Court

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People should not be misled by online health service aggregators and blood samples should go only to the accredited labs for accurate results, the Delhi High Court said on Tuesday expressing concern on the issue.

The high court’s observation came while hearing a plea seeking contempt action against the authorities for not adhering to the court’s earlier direction to take action against online health service aggregators operating illegally and collecting samples for COVID-19 tests.

“The concern is that if you are taking samples of Delhi residents, it should go to accredited labs and the results must be accurate. The court’s concern is that citizens should not be misled and samples should not be collected by an agency which is not approved,” Justice Najmi Waziri said.

The court had earlier directed the police of Delhi and Haryana to file reports on the action taken by them on a complaint received by the AAP government regarding an online health service aggregator allegedly collecting samples for COVID-19 tests without licence.

On this, the counsel for Haryana Police told the court that after investigation and consideration of material available, it has been concluded that no case is made out to take action against the particular online health service aggregator.

Advocate Anil Grover, representing the Haryana Police, said an inquiry committee was constituted by the Director General Health Services of Haryana on allegations against the firm and it has been concluded that prosecution has failed to prove the charges.

On being asked by the court whether the firm has got approvals from the competent authority for collecting samples, the counsel said yes it has everything.

“According to you, so no citizen was misled,” the court asked and Mr Grover responded, “not at all. We have done several inquiries and there is nothing found against the company.”

The company, in a reply submitted to Haryana authorities, claimed that it was accredited by the National Accreditation board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and that it was also an approved lab by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

It said that in view of the approval and accreditation from ICMR and NABL respectively, it was allowed to carry out sample collections.

It said collection of samples for other labs was done by entering into appropriate MoU or contracts and that it never performed any COVID-19 test till April 15, 2021 and has only involved in sample collection under the MoU with NABL and ICMR approved COVID-19 Labs.

As the status report filed by Haryana Police was not on record, the court asked the counsel to bring it on record and listed the matter for further hearing on November 25.

Advocate Shashank Deo Sudhi, representing petitioner Dr Rohit Jain, claimed that the statement made by Haryana authorities was incorrect and false.

The high court was earlier informed by Delhi government counsel that a complaint was made by the Delhi Health Department to the Commissioners of Delhi Police and Gurgaon Police against one entity identified by it which had violated the COVID-19 norms by illegally collecting samples for coronavirus tests, including RT-PCR.

The Delhi government had said the entity was found in violation of the confidentiality and privacy law by sharing patient’s information as stated on its website.

The petitioner’s counsel had urged the court to allow the contempt plea and restrain the illegal online health service aggregators, which are not authorised to collect diagnostic samples for COVID-19 tests, from further committing contempt of order passed by the court last year.

The ICMR, in its affidavit filed in response to the petition, has said that NABL certification is must for enrolment of private labs for COVID-19 testing and NABL certifies the readiness of labs to undertake molecular testing ofRS-Cov-2 before the research body allows them for testing.

Regarding the online health service aggregators, the ICMR has said monitoring of their activities does not come under its purview.

The Supreme Court had on April 8, 2020 directed that COVID-19 tests must be carried out in NABL-accredited labs or any agencies approved by the WHO or ICMR.

A division bench of the high court, on August 6, 2020 had directed the AAP government to take action in accordance with law against online health service aggregators, who are operating illegally without any registration, after hearing all the stakeholders.

The petition claimed that this rampant illegal sample collection by online health service aggregators is leading to false negative COVID-19 results thereby letting loose the coronavirus positive patients in the society and hence unfortunately allowing them to transmit or spread the virus.

It said there is an urgent need to restrain the online health aggregators from collecting the diagnostic samples illegally to save the innocent people in the interest of the public at large and action may be initiated against them as directed by the court on August 6 last year.

It has sought initiation of contempt proceedings against the top government officials and others for alleged non-compliance of the high court’s order asking to take action and regulate online pathological labs.

The petitioner has sought contempt action against Delhi Chief Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directors General of Health Service and ICMR for allegedly not complying with the high court’s last year order.

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