Organ transplant fiasco: Minister suspends Urology and Nephrology dept heads, orders probe into conspiracy angle too

Kerala Health Minister Veena George
Kerala Health Minister Veena George

Health minister Veena George on Monday suspended the heads of the Urology and Nephrology departments of Thiruvananthapuram Medical College after the death of a kidney transplant patient had raised questions about the preparedness of the Medical College.

She said that the preliminary report submitted by the additional chief secretary (health) had pointed out the possibility of a "coordination failure" at the Medical College.

"It is on the basis of the report of the ACS that the two doctors have been temporarily suspended and a comprehensive probe has been ordered into the incident.

The probe will assess in detail whether there was indeed a failure of coordination at the level of these two departments," the minister told reporters on Monday.

The comprehensive probe that has been instituted will also look into the conspiracy angle.

The minister hinted that the presence of outsiders when the ambulance carrying the kidney arrived at the portico of the Medical College super-speciality wing was suspicious.

She said these outsiders had taken hold of the container carrying the kidney before the two doctors who were in the ambulance could even step out.

"These people did not know where the operation theatre was and this had caused some confusion," the minister said. "The circumstances that caused these outsiders, and not the hospital authorities, to receive the container will be probed," she said.

The minister said the probe would also look into the possibility of certain forces attempting to sabotage the organ transplant project of the government.

"We have done two successful liver transplants, and that too for free. Also, all our five major medical colleges are now being equipped to carry out organ transplants. Setting up dedicated organ transplant teams in government medical colleges will be a great boon as otherwise, people would have to depend on private hospitals where huge prohibitive sums are demanded for organ transplants. The chances of outside forces trying to undermine the government's organ transplant programme will also come under the purview of the probe," Veena George said.

Except for the chaos at the time of the arrival of the kidney from Kochi, the minister said the procedures leading up to the transplant went according to plan.

When the Medical College was informed of the kidney availability on June 19, the minister said all the claimants were called for a test.

"By around 2.15 p.m., Suresh's (the 62-year-old man who died after the operation) was found to be the right match," the minister said. The ambulance started from Kochi by 2:30 pm. Besides the driver, the ambulance had two doctors from the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College who had reached Kochi early in the morning," the minister said. 

The patient was taken for the mandatory pre-operative dialysis by 4 pm, at least one-and-a-half hours before the kidney arrived from Kochi. The process was over by 7.45 p.m.

The patient was then taken to the operation theatre by 8.15 pm and the operation started by 8:30 pm. In other words, the preliminary report ruled out any delay.

The surgery lasted for nearly eight hours but the patient was declared dead. "The real cause of the death can be ascertained only after the post-mortem," the minister said.

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