HIV cases in Unnao: Top health officials knew about quack reusing syringes in 2017
Uttar Pradesh health minister Sidharth Nath Singh said the government has ordered an investigation into the matter and would initiate strict action against unqualified medical practitioners.Updated: Feb 06, 2018 23:35 IST
Top health department officials in Unnao were told about a quack transmitting HIV by reusing syringe as early as July 2017, according to officials and an official memo of health department, but they did not take action.
According to an internal department communication, then chief medical superintendent (CMS) of Unnao district hospital Uma Shankar Dixit wrote to then chief medical officer (CMO) of the district Dr Rajendra Prasad after 12 people from one locality of Bangarmau — called Premgunj — were found positive for HIV after screening at the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) at the Unnao district hospital.
The CMS sent the letter to the CMO on July 21, 2017 seeking a detailed investigation.
“The patients had informed health officials that they developed the condition after being injected by the quack, who used a single syringe to inject all his patients,” the letter, a copy of which is with the Hindustan Times, said.
The letter also said that the patients had given the location where they met the quack — Station Road, Bangarmau.
Dr SP Chowdhary, the current CMO, said while he was CMS, he too wrote a letter to Prasad informing him about the regular detection of HIV patients in Bangarmau and calling the situation unusual. But no action was taken.
Prasad, however, said he could not recall about the letters written by the two officials.
“I would have forwarded the letters to the nodal officer (for quacks) to take necessary action,” he said.
There were more warnings. Amin Welfare Trust, a body appointed by the UP AIDS Control Society, found 13 more people with HIV in Bangarmau in November 2017, and immediately shared the findings with the authorities, said a health department official.
The CMO controls the field work and community health centres, while the role of the CMS is primarily restricted to the district hospital where the ICTCs are located.
Subsequently, Prasad was suspended after doctors performed eye- urgeries on 32 people under torchlight at Nawabgunj community health centre on December 22. Prasad had allegedly given permission to an NGO to use the facility and did not provide mattresses and blankets to the patients who had to spend the night in the open.
According to department officials, Chowdhary was appointed the new CMO on December 28 and since he was aware of the problem, he sent teams to Bangarmau where 566 people were screened at three camps held on January 24, 25 and 27. After the tests, 38 more patients — six from just one family — were found HIV positive, Chowdhary confirmed.
A committee comprising additional CMO Tanmay Kakkar and deputy CMO JR Singh was formed to investigate the incidence of HIV patients in the three pockets. The committee identified Rajendra Yadav as the quack but could not find more details about his identity or residence. Health officials filed an FIR with the police on the basis of the findings of the team, said Chowdhary.