02 December 2010
By Sumitra Deb Roy
The Maharashtra State AIDS Control Society (MSACS) is probing charges of bribery against a medical officer at Thane civic hospital. The officer had allegedly demanded a bribe of Rs 5,000 from the patient to write a prescription for free anti–retroviral drugs.
The role of the centre’s counsellor is also suspect in the episode. Another inquiry is on against a medical officer who allegedly demanded money to refer a patient for second line HIV/ AIDS treatment. There have also been verbal complaints about medical officers demanding bribes to conduct CD4 tests, which are free of cost.
Project director of MSACS, Dr Ramesh Devkar, said that urgent steps were being taken to curb corruption at ART centres across the state. "In about a fortnight, we will crackdown on all corrupt officers," he said.
"We are very discreet about our plan of action as we do not want to alert any of the wrongdoers," he added. Devkar said Pune, Aurangabad and Solapur have emerged as the most notorious districts for corruption.
The state–run JJ Hospital has to cater to a high number of HIV patients due to the apathy of officials posted at ART centres. A Sawant (32), a resident of Nagpur, was forced to come to JJ after the medical officer refused to change his medication, despite the fact that he had suffered strong drug reactions. "Once I reached the hospital 10 minutes late. The medical officer threw the file on my face and refused to examine me," he said. "The patients are made to feel guilty for having contracted the virus," he said.
Clinical psychologist at JJ Hospital’ s ART centre, Vaishali Shelar, said that they have started insisting that patients submit written complaints against errant doctors or counselors. These complaints are then forwarded to the state agency or Mumbai District AIDS Control Society.