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Inferior masks filtered out

A consignment of N95 facemasks was rejected by Delhi Government's Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital on Tuesday.

delhi Updated: Aug 28, 2009 00:15 IST

A consignment of N95 facemasks was rejected by Delhi Government's Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital on Tuesday.

The N95 mask, recommended by the World Heath Organisation (WHO) is designed in such a way that it does not allow even a micron of the swine flu virus (H1N1) to enter the respiratory system. It is meant for doctors and staff attending to patients and is also given to H1N1 positive people to check the further spread of virus.

Thanks to the ever-growing swine flu scare and pressed by the three-fold increase in demand of N95 masks, suppliers to Delhi Government hospitals have started supplying sub-standard H1N1 masks.

"We had to ask the supplier to take back the consignment as it did not match with the original sample sent to us. It was not of the same make or quality," said Dr RA Gautam, medical superintendent at Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital.

"It is very simple. If you have ordered for "brand a" product, why will you settle for "brand b" even if the product is the same. The brand is not the same."

A hospital source also told HT that the masks supplied to the Delhi government hospital were "Made in China" as opposed to the original sample which was "Made in Singapore."

The committee decided against accepting the consignment, as the masks were reportedly inferior in quality.

"The inspection committees unanimously decided to reject the sample and ask the supplier to give us the same quality, which the directorate of health services had approved," said Dr AS Narula, head of ENT department and also the store incharge at Aruna Asaf Ali Hospital.

"It is a fact that the demand for N95 masks have shot up at least 300 per cent. Before the swine flu scare, there was hardly any mass need for it. Suppliers must be finding it tough to meet the sudden demand."

The Delhi Health minister , Kiran Walia, denied any knowledge of sub-standard mask distribution in hospitals.

"So far, no hospital has complained about being supplied sub-standard masks," said Walia.

"In fact I am truly pleased at the watchfulness of the staff and doctors at Aruna Asaf Ali hospital,” she said.

Govt to Pharmas: Include Indians in vaccine trials

The government is talking to global pharma companies to include Indians in trials for developing the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine.

Multinational companies such as Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceutical have completed their animal studies and are about to enter Phase I trials for developing the swine flu vaccine.

VM Katoch, DG, Indian Council of Medical Research said, "We are asking them to include Indians in Phase 1 and import and do Phase 2 and 3 testing in India."

Phase 1 trials test the vaccine’s safety on people.

Serum Institute of India, Panacea Biotech, Bharat Biotech and Cadilla will be working on it here, which can’t be delivered before March or April.