• Sources said the probe may extend to other senior officials
  • The complaint came in January from BYL Nair Hospital’s nephrology department

MUMBAI: The state government has suspended a health department official for allegedly demanding a “bribe” from a senior civic hospital doctor for expedited permission to carry out kidney transplants. Sources said the probe may extend to other senior officials.

The complaint came in January from Mumbai Central-based B Y L Nair Hospital’s nephrology department, whose head, Dr Kalpana Mehta, received three phone calls from Subhash Kumawat, a statistical assistant from the health department’s Thane division. The calls came soon after a meeting for transplant approvals. The meeting was held to seek the hospital authorization committee (HAC) permission to carry out six kidney transplants. In the committee, a representative from the state’s Directorate of Health Services (DHS) must be present to approve transplants within blood relatives.

The hospital was granted permission to carry out all the transplants. Yet, Kumawat, who an employee of the DHS but was in no way related to the committee, allegedly started calling Mehta. “Kumawat apparently called Dr Mehta three times and asked her to do some ‘adjustment’. When she did not relent, he offered to meet her at Nair Hospital,” said Dr Satish Pawar, head of DHS. Dr Mehta immediately brought the matter to institute dean Dr Ramesh Bharmal’s notice, who in turn informed the DHS.

“The BMC doctors were so taken aback by the demand that they put all six surgeries on hold. We then convinced them that since the permissions were in place, they should go ahead with the transplants,” said Dr Pawar. “We suspended Kumawat within five minutes of receiving the complaint. Organ donation has already gone through a tough phase last year after the Hiranandani incident and we want to be absolutely intolerant towards any possibility of mischief,” he said.

Incidentally, Kunawat comes from the same office that had sent a representative to the hospital authorization committee of LH Hiranandani Hospital that was at the centre of a kidney racket last year (see box). Pawar said a preliminary inquiry has found Kumawat’s possible involvement. “We have now ordered a full-fledged investigation,” he said and added that no senior official was under the scanner.

 TOI has learnt that the possibility of the involvement of more government officials in the racket to grant transplant permissions will be looked into. In the Hiranandani case, state official Dr BK Kadam was found to be negligent.
“It is the state official’s job to call a hospital’s bluff in case it is trying to flout transplant norms. It is for this reason that state officials are part of the HAC. But if they demand bribes to grant permissions, it only means that they are indirectly a party to transplant rackets,” said a source. The incident has left the DHS red-faced as their scathing report against Hiranandani Hospital had led to the arrest of five doctors.

Dr Bharmal said that Nair carried out over 60 kidney transplants annually. “We have never before come across such an incidence. We are fully cooperating with the inquiry. A few of those transplants have already been carried out,” he said.
Courtesy:-Times Of India