Patna: A senior doctor of the government-run PMCH (Patna Medical College and Hospital) has been suspended for raising the demand for low-cost rapid testing kit for COVID-19 in Bihar,which has seen a sharp spike in number of positive cases in the past 24 hours.
Dr Satyendar Narayan Singh,head of the microbiology department at PMCH,a premier health institute of Bihar,was on Thursday suspended allegedly because strongly advocated the use of low-cost rapid testing kit for COVID-19 at a video conference chaired by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar last Saturday. The meeting was for planning ways to tackle the potential danger of coronavirus spread in the state and included state health minister Mangal Pandey,principal health secretary Sanjay Kumar and specialist doctors from different hospitals.
“My suggestion to use low cost rapid testing kit for COVID-19 in Bihar,which has been approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research, did not go down well with some powerful people, who suspended me on baseless charges.I was really shocked that I was punished for raising the issue,” Singh alleged while speaking with NewsClick here.
The government in its order said Singh was suspended for negligence of duty, as he failed to complete the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test for COVID-19 at PMCH.
Singh alleged that soon after he advocated use of the rapid testing kit, a top official in the health department seemed visibly angry. Later, the official served Singh a notice saying that “my suggestion was scientifically not suitable and sought my explanation or reply to it.I have submitted my reply with scientifically proven cases and ICMR’s approval for use the rapid testing kit I was suspended without being heard out”.
Ironically,the Bihar Medical Services and Infrastructure Corporation Limited under the state government on Friday invited a tender for supply of 50,000 rapid testing kits. “Why did the authorities suspended me? Now the government itself is keen to procure rapid testing kits”, he said.
Singh accused the authorities of displaying a“vindictive attitude” to him, even though has over three decades of field experience”. He is scheduled to retire next year.
The senior doctor recalled that when he suggested the use of a rapid testing kit for on a mass scale, none other than the chief minister was surprised and was curious to know more about it. “I explained to him and gave the example of South Korea, which had successfully used rapid testing kits for combat of coronavirus”, he added.
Singh said he also suggested then that Bihar should follow countries which are corona free without lockdown. He said a state like Bihar had limited capability of testing with PCR kits,hence the use of a rapid testing kit was the need of the hour to deal with the crisis. “Look,PCR kits are not only costly but involve a long process at the lab that takes around 6- 8 hours for the results. That apart, setting up a lab for PCR kits requires an investment of Rs 4-5 crore along with staffs to manage it, he added.
A rapid testing kit takes 5 to 10 minutes only for the test result, he said, adding that it was simple process. “What is required is a drop of the suspected patient’s blood,” he said.
An upset Singh said he would write to the CM .“I should have been honoured for suggesting the use a low-cost rapid testing kits but, unfortunately, I was suspended”.
NewsClick, repeatedly tried to reach the principal secretary of health Sanjay Kumar for his version but he did not take any call or call back.
Meanwhile, another senior doctor at a government -run hospital here, said costly PCR kits were connected with more money as commission to some vested interests. “Low cost rapid testing kit simply means no money making in the name of fighting coronavirus”, he said.
Till Friday, there were 60 COVID-19 positive cases in Bihar, with one person dead.Twelve new cases were reported on April 9 .So far, the state has tested more than 4,000 samples, a far lower number when compared to its huge population. There are four COVID-19 test facilities in Bihar.