Kolkata: The authenticity of a viral audio clip about the alleged hoarding and black marketing of a crucial COVID-19 injection, Tocilizumab, was established on Sunday (June 6) when a seven member team of the Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, and a three-member team comprising of the state Health Department and representatives of Sasthya Bhawan submitted their report.
The audio clip comprised of a complaint raised against a physician serving at the COVID-19 ward in MCH, who is a close confidante of Trinamool Congress leader Dr Nirmal Maji. The clip stated that the physician had acquired 26 vials of Tocilizumab under the directions of Maji, who is also a TMC MLA. The injections were then sold in the private market. Notably, each vial of the critical injection costs Rs 1.5 lakh in the open market.
While reports say that the incident took place around 45 days earlier, a probe was ordered only after the audio clip went viral on social media and questions were raised about the issue to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The CM had allegedly tried to defend the minister, leading to a further uproar about the issue.
Maji, who is the leader of TMC Medical Doctors’ Association, is reportedly a frequent visitor of Sasthya Bhawan. He is the former chairman of Rogi Kalyan Samity of Medical College and Hospital.
It should also be mentioned that Maji had tried to acquire the injections earlier as well, as per reports.
When the scam surfaced on June 2, two fact finding probes were ordered – one by the superintendent of MCH and the other by Sasthya Bhawan. The reports submitted by both the teams stated that in this case, the standard operating procedure (SOP) for acquiring Tocilizumab was bypassed by the two concerned health professionals.
The Association of Health Service Doctors (AHSD) had also condemned the scam and called for a thorough probe over the incident.
The reports also noted that black marketing of the reportedly life-saving injection is rampant in the state. The hospital had a stock of 60 vials of the injection at the green building CCU of MCH. The building had transferred some vials as loan as an internal procedure, the report stated. The accused physician then acquired 26 vials with the help of a CCU nurse, it added.
However, both the reports have failed to take note of the close connection between the physician and Nirmal Maji. While, the viral audio clip directly points fingers at Maji, the reports held that prima facie the concerned physician is at the centre of the controversy. This has drawn criticism from various corners as an attempt to shield the MLA.
Following the submission of reports by the two fact-finding teams, Dr Manas Gupta, general secretary of AHSD, said that the reports should be open for public scrutiny. He said, “This is not a case that should be allowed to manage within closed circles. It is a dangerous issue and concerns a crucial drug for COVID-19 treatment. If the reports are not published, common people will start questioning the role of all health professionals.