Saturday, December 09, 2006

The business of health

Govind Sarda bows in devotion.

About 2 months ago the media broke the news that Monozyme India Private Ltd, owned by jute baron Govind Sarda, allegedly supplied medical test kits with fudged expiry dates to the West Bengal govt’s health department. These kits were for conducting various types of blood tests, including the Eliza test for HIV and confirmation tests for Hepatitis B and C. This could have fatal consequences for several people who were given blood tested using the faulty kits.

Chief minister, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee gave a clean chit to health officials.

Public awareness is reflected in this comment:

“It barely seems credible that the tampering of blood sample checking kits by Govind Sarda could have been possible without the knowledge of the state health department officials at various levels, or without the active support from one and all.”

Sukanta Chaudhuri, professor of English at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, had written:

We learnt that unknown hundreds of thousands of dud blood-testing kits had passed through the public health system, putting unknown thousands of lives at risk -very probably, having ended some already. We would be hard put to match this assault on so many lives by such quiet, casual, unstrenuous exercise of evil - not war, not riots, not epidemics, just a few conscienceless operators working a system so supine that everyone participates in its corruption simply by belonging to it.The crime seems to have shocked even the police. Not, however, the health officials and health minister, who ignored the matter as long as possible, and are now shrugging it off as though it were an accounting fiddle. They know they have nothing to fear.

Not to be cowed down by such trivialities, the state health department is marching ahead undaunted in going about “the health business”.

Yesterday I learnt that the department has scrapped the Stent Committee's report - which had recommended measures to make life saving devices affordable to the common people. A new committee has been ordered.

Stenting refers to a catheter-based procedure, in which a small, expandable wire mesh tube (stent) is inserted into a diseased artery, serving as a scaffold to hold it open. Currently, stenting is usually performed along with other catheter-based procedures, such as balloon angioplasty oratherectomy.

These procedures are used to partially reduce the narrowing caused byatherosclerosis, while the stent allows for an excellent result with littleto no narrowing remaining within the coronary arteries. The stent also helpsreduce the risk of the artery re-narrowing.

The three-member committee had been appointed in the wake of a controversy involving the city medical colleges, where stenting cases are done, after allegations were raised that a section of doctors were forcing patients to procure unauthorised and substandard stents at exorbitant cost.

The committee submitted its report nearly a year ago. It had pointed out that there was a huge gap between the manufacturing cost and retail price of stents. Their report was seen as a means to ensure transparency in provision of stents to patients at city-based medical college hospitals.

No comments: