Greedy Head of the department at the Regional cancer centre in Jammu Tuesday paid heavy price for taking poor cancer patients for a ride and not discharging his duties with regard to improving patient care facilities and non-utilization of funds to the tune of over Rs 11 crore. Despite a ban on private practice by HODs, Prof. Ashutosh was continuously doing private practice paying little heed to the Ministers’ diktat
According to official sources, the HOD faced fury of Minister for Medical Education, Youth services and Sports Taj Mohi-ud-Din during surprise inspection on Tuesday afternoon. As Minister arrived there and made one single round of the RCC centre it exposed the poor working and lack of patient care facilities existing at the centre.
Angry Minister repeatedly took HOD Prof Ashutosh Gupta to task for not initiating reform measures or projecting the requirements keeping in view the welfare of the patients.
The Minister,according to official sources lost his cool and ordered an inquiry and attachment of Head of the Department Prof Ashutosh Gupta in to the non disbursement of money meant for free medication of poor cancer patients.
According to official sources around 3.15 p.m Taj Mohi Ud Din reached Regional Cancer centre for a surprise visit and went around the corridors.Team of senior doctors, hospital authorities and HOD Prof Ashutosh Gupta accompanied the minister.
During the inspection Minister expressed his desire to visit one of the rooms where cobalt 60 machine was installed. Though HOD was little reluctant but he could not prevent him from visiting the radio therapy room.
Once inside the room the Minister started asking basic questions about the patient care and treatment methodology followed to treat cancer patients.
According to official sources, during the questioning as Taj Mohi Ud Din was informed by the faculty members of RCC that in the absence of medical physicist the patients were not getting the desired treatment he shouted angrily, “Stop playing with the lives of the patients”.
Angry Minister then enquired about the Medical Physicist but he was informed by the HOD that she was not keeping well for last few days.When Minister asked for the attendance register he found it was not in order. Finding it difficult to understand the system of working of the RCC Minister immediately ordered the entire faculty and senior hospital authorities to assemble in his officer chambers. Once there the minister asked pointed questions to the HOD about the vacant posts, status of funds meant for purchase of medicines for chemotherapy, status of utilization of central grants to the tune of Rs 11 crore.
Minister also inquired from director SKIMS about the status of funds and utilization of grants and when he posed the same questions to the HOD Prof Ashutosh Gupta he feigned ignorance about most of the things and pleaded before the minister.Minister also expressed his discomfort over the attitude of the senior faculty members towards improving patient care facilities of the RCC.The miseries of the HOD was compounded by the Principal and senior hospital authorities as they reportedly showcased file notings in front of the Minister exposing the poor working of the HOD’s office. Dissatisfied with the responses furnished by the HOD minister then ordered an inquiry and decided to attach HOD Prof Ashutosh Gupta with immediate effect.
The inquiry committee would be headed by Administrator, GMC & Associated Hospitals and it has been asked to submit its report within shortest possible time.
Later, the Minister reviewed the functioning of Regional Cancer Centre with the concerned functionaries.
Addressing the meeting, the Minister asked the doctors to redouble their efforts to make the centre fully functional so that the patients suffering from cancer don’t have to travel outside the state for treatment.
Principal, GMC, Dr. Aniece Choudhary, Medical Superintendent, GMC, Dr. Manoj Chalotra, several HoDs and senior doctors were present in the meeting.
HISTORY OF THE REGIONAL CANCER CENTRE
Over the last five years ever since the Radiotherapy department was upgraded to the level of Regional Cancer centre little or no effort has been made to improve the patient care facility.
The majority of patients are often left to fend for themselves in the absence of one of the non-functional COBALT 60 machines and go home without receiving Radiotherapy.
In the absence of state of the art facilities the patients here in RCC are often greeted with the news of radiotherapy machine out of order,absence of medical physicist or non-availability of bed during chemotherapy session.
Ironically, the head of the department and senior hospital authorities have turned blind eye towards the basic needs of the cancer patients and till date they have not made alternate arrangements to provide them comfort during their stay.The nook and corner of the RCC in GMC present a shabby look.
According to the rough estimates of the hospital records the Regional Cancer Centre at Government Medical College Jammu is receiving more than 3000 new cancer patients annually. But till date it has just one medical physicist to cater to the nearly 100 cancer patients daily who have to receive radiation in the hospital. Severely short of the manpower, the Centre has just 12 beds to cater to the huge rush, forcing it to refer the patients to other departments.
Sources in the hospital said that the Centre has two Cobalt radio therapy machines, one Radiation simulator and one Brachytherapy radiotherapy machine, but there is only one medical physicist to take care of the whole load of the patients.
This has led to huge problem for the lone medical physicist, who has to shuttle between the machines to ensure the functioning of the services. GMC has a heavy load of cancer patients who need radiotherapy, which works out on average around 90 to 100 patients on a daily basis. The hospital is finding it difficult to manage with limited manpower, putting extra burden on the existing staff and affecting the quality of the services offered.
The Centre has just 12 beds in its ward, while the requirement is more than 40 beds. Many cancer patients undergoing treatment have to share the same bed, as there is severe shortage of the beds in the ward. The Centre also has severe shortage of the paramedical staff. The Centre needs at least four chemotherapy nurses, but has just two. There are five radiotherapy technicians, but the centre needs a minimum of eight.
Apart from this, the Centre has just four doctors, who have to cater to the patients from the whole province. Sources said that this has led to delays and waiting for the treatment that patients receive, especially the radiation and chemotherapy. Sometimes they have the machines available, but the required manpower is not there.
A patient wishing not to be named said that he had to wait for a long time, as the Centre with its limited staff have to attend to too many patients. He said that one medical physicist can attend all the machines at the same time.
Deplorable Condition of the Centre-[imagebrowser id=3]
WHERE ARE THE FUNDS?
The Cancer Research Desk of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had released an amount of `3 crore to the RCC, Govt Medical College, Jammu on March 2008 for the purchase of Linear Accelerator, Video Assisted Thoraco-scopy system, Rigid Bronchoscope with accessories, Video Bronchoscope and other equipment for the pathology department.
In March 2009, under secretary to the Government of India, CS Mishra shot off another letter to the principal of the Government Medical college hospital to submit a utilisation certificate for the Rs. 3 crore it had been given so as to complete the necessary formalities for releasing the balance amount of Rs.2 crore to the RCC, Jammu.
Hospital authorities and the head of the RCC failed to send a utilisation certificate as the money lay unused. In his defence, the head of RCC, Prof Ashutosh Gupta said that attempts were made to purchase the Linear Accelerator and tenders were floated twice. But the absence of more than one supplier meant the purchase committee could not proceed further and the proposal could not materialise.
After waiting for almost four years, the Government of India launched a revised national programme for prevention and control of cancer and also carried out assessment of RCC, Jammu. The assessment was carried on March 13, 2011 by Dr Shazia Wafaia, regional director (H&FW), Srinagar and Dr N Das, head of the Radiotherapy Department, Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi.
In their inspection report, the doctors went on to confirm the fact that the existing COBALT 60 equipment got decommissioned due to the fall in dose rate and the department needs upgradation.
A grant of Rs. 6 crore was sanctioned.
The doctors also noted down in their inspection report, that the department is ready to purchase the radiation source and necessary spares for teletherapy machine and other associated equipment.
Regarding the utilisation certificate of the previous grant of Rs. 3 crore plus interest, the inspection team noted that the institution has requested the amount to be adjusted in the new grant.
“Last year, we had also received a grant of Rs. 6 crore from the Union Ministry but we are still waiting for the money”. “In the last over four years, the price of a Linear Accelerator has increased and now we require a sum of `8-10 crore to set up the facilities,” the Head of the department said.