February 23, 2009

Hepatitis-B Epidemic: Greed of penny-wise doctors

Greed of penny-wise doctors in Modasa and neighbouring parts seem to have played a major role in exposing innocent people

to one of the deadliest strains of Hepatitis-B virus as they re-used syringes that cost a negligible amount to skin off as much profit as possible.

A police complaint filed against Dr Rakesh Shah of Dhansura, one of the five doctors arrested, alleges him of gross medical negligence which includes re-use of syringes and dumping medical waste of his clinic in the panchayat dust-bin.

Other doctors have been accused of practising allopathy medicine despite having degrees in ayurveda, homeopathy or other alternative medicine.

Experts say that the economics of using disposable syringes prompts many doctors doing general practise to re-use syringes, especially when they treat patients charging by Rs 15-25.

"A disposable syringe of standard company costs between Rs 2.85-5.50. In wholesale, these are available to doctors for less than Rs 2. A large number of doctors in rural areas tend to re-use syringes to save as much money as possible. Pathology laboratories are also more prone to re-use of syringes," says Mehsana-based Anil Naik, former president of Indian Medical Association (IMA), Gujarat, which has been organising seminars on Safe Injection Practises' to curb misuse of injections in spreading deadly viruses like HIV, Hepatitis-B and C.

Officials too widely accept that re-use of syringes could be a big reason for this outbreak and the state should take serious measures to curb the spread of the virus. In fact, health minister Jaynarayan Vyas on Saturday urged people in Modasa to avoid taking unnecessary injections as they could pose a threat to spreading the infection.

Earlier, of the 1,50,642 people checked in 227 villages it was found that 459 people had taken injections, 1,883 people had undergone operations, another 152 had taken dental treatment and 25 people had under gone blood transfusion. Meaning, a majority were exposed to needles that may have been recycled!

Experts say that most doctors in villages and towns see an average of 100 patients daily. Most of these patients are given injections as patients tend to have a psychology that injections give prompt relief. Many doctors oblige as giving an injections means extra income of Rs 10-15 per patient.

"We take injections all the time. My wife had also taken injection for fever and Mahir too was given an injection for skin allergy," Abdulbhai of Modasa told TOI. Both his wife and son have succumbed to Hepatitis-B.

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