This refers to a news report published in one of the well read English newspapers of Dec 23, 2012 according to which the Prime Minister approved nineteen regulatory amendments proposed by Commerce Ministry seeking ban on some of importable goods and has approved unrestricted import of secondhand motorized wheel chairs and five year old used or second hand ambulances with a view to help the health sector. Though it was not clear in this report whether only the items mentioned in the report are banned and allowed or there are some additional items too?

In a previous letter, I pointed out that wheel chairs and ambulances may not be of great concern as they do not impose any danger of incorrect diagnosis, but the items which produce diagnostic results like CT scanners and MRI should not be allowed secondhand or of refurbished condition because the medical technology is advancing every day and our country, which already lags behind in the field of medical services, would lag further. Moreover, the older diagnostic/medical imaging systems (CT scanner, MRI, colour Doppler, Ultrasound, X-ray.) would not have the current software, hardware according to recent advancement in medical science. So, many indications of some forthcoming and existing problem in the human body may be overlooked, thus providing wrong diagnosis resulting in danger to the patient’s life.

Unfortunately, a lot of medical diagnostic equipment is reportedly being imported over the years and many of the leading private sector hospitals, medical centres, clinics are buying older equipment to save the initial investment and simultaneously ignoring the fact that an important diagnosis could be missed. For example, an old permanent magnet (PM) MRI cannot produce same image as the new PM MRI because its permanent magnet’s magnetic field deteriorates over the years. Hence, it may provide an inaccurate diagnosis.

I request all concerned authorities to put a ban on all secondhand and refurbished diagnostic imaging equipment and make new items duty free, income tax and sales tax so that users also have some incentive, besides, the overall ratio of medical equipment is much less as compared to Pakistan’s overall imports of all sectors. Therefore, the government would not lose much revenue. This will ensure a common man getting advanced diagnostic facilities and help raise our already low medical standards.

MUHAMMAD ASIF,

Karachi, December 30.