Srinagar: The state Health Department has failed to formulate a regulatory body to keep the illegal infertility clinics and treatment centres in check as required by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines.
According to the ICMR, it has not given approval to any J&K in-vitro fertility (IVF) clinic or centre under its National Registry of Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) Clinics and Banks. Only one clinic in the state has been enrolled by the ICMR so far, and it too is still awaiting authentication.
“ICMR has enrolled only one ART clinic in J&K namely Royal Infertility Clinic in Raj Bagh, Srinagar under Dr Bobby Kapra. However, the clinic has been approved as the verification process by the Experts Committee of the ICMR is still pending,” it said.
As per the latest ICMR registry, an enrolment number has been given to those ART clinics who have successfully submitted details (under prescribed proforma) of minimum infrastructure facilities, trained manpower and procedure undertaken at their clinics.
However, the registry clarified that the enrolment number is not a certificate of quality in regard to services provided by the enrolled ART clinic.
“The information provided by the enrolled ART Clinics has not yet been verified by the Experts Committee of the ICMR. The process of verification of their claim, by the ICMR Experts Committee, is in process currently,” it said.
“The ICMR document has exposed the claims and status of legality of IVF clinics and centres in Jammu and Kashmir. Despite being unregistered, most of them openly advertise their fake expertise,” said a senior gynaecologist working with the state Health and Medical Education Department (H&ME).
She said the fake IVF centres are out to lure gullible couples and make huge money at their expense.
“It is becoming a high-paid business with a large number of childless couples falling into their clutches. We must raise awareness about all such illegal practices which are misusing an increased infertility graph in Jammu and Kashmir for their benefit,” the doctor said.
Sources told Kashmir Reader that these centres remain unchecked in J&K because the state doesn’t have a ‘concerned body’ or ‘authority’ to check infertility centres and take a decision on their registration.
“In absence of an appropriate authority, which is mandatory under the Assisted Reproductive Technologies (Regulation) Act, these centres have mushroomed in Srinagar and Jammu. Some of the clinics and centres are running in district headquarters without the knowledge of Health authorities,” said a senior administrator.
The Health Department last month ordered the closure of an ‘IVF Centre’ in Rajbagh area, Well Spring Clinics, which was unregistered.
A divisional-level team comprising senior officers of the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir, had to seal the centre under the Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PCPNDT) and the Clinical Establishments Acts, while there was no relevant act under ICMR guidelines to invoke due to the callous approach of the Health department in implementing the ART Act that governs IVF centres.
Despite the ART (Regulation) Act, which was enacted in 2010, most of these unregulated IVF clinics continue to be unregistered.
Director of Health Services, Kashmir, Dr Saleem-ur-Rehman told Kashmir Reader that the owner of the clinic has been running its every affair illegally, right from the establishment of the machines set up in it.
“We have received complaints that the clinic was run by a homeopathic doctor, which is a serious issue. No doctor from any other specialty is authorised to do IVF procedures or to claim to be expert in them. So we have sealed it and won’t allow him to operate again,” Dr Saleem said.
The director has formed a divisional-level committee to routinely inspect private healthcare establishments so that they may provide better healthcare.
“The department is acting tough on all genuine and verified complaints, and no illegal and unethical practices will be allowed,” Dr Saleem said.