The state government on Tuesday appointed a three-member committee to probe a case in which a government-appointed social worker and a transplant coordinator of Raheja Hospital reportedly sought a bribe from a patient requiring clearance for an organ transplant. On Monday, the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested Tushar Savarkar, social worker at the state-run JJ Hospital, and Sachin Salve, organ transplant co-ordinator with the SL Raheja Hospital, for allegedly demanding Rs 1.5 lakh from a patient requiring a kidney transplant, in order to expedite permissions for the transplant.
The patient subsequently approached the ACB and paid Rs 80,000 to Salve. Both were arrested on Monday from JJ Hospital.
Mohamed Zia Siddiqui, the complainant and friend of patient Jamaluddin Amir-ullah Khan, told The Indian Express that they had attended authorisation committee meeting in JJ hospital on September 18, but their no-objection-certificate for kidney transplant has still not come.
“We were later told by Salve in Raheja that we have to bribe the authorisation committee chairperson (Dr Sanjay Surase) to get NOC. Even in JJ Hospital, other recipients who got NOC before us told us they had to pay bribe. A South African national, was also present on September 18, got NOC for organ transplant immediately,” alleged Siddiqui.
According to state government norms for organ transplant, a hospital is authorised to conduct live organ transplant if the donor and recipient are blood kin. “In this case, the donor was not a blood kin of the recipient and they required clearance. The transplant coordinator (Salve) demanded a bribe to process and speed up approvals. He said he had contacts in JJ Hospital,” said Dr Praveen Shingare, director at the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER).
Government norms mandate that any organ transplant between an unrelated donor and recipient must be approved by the state authorisation committee of six members. In this case, distant relative of Khan (42) was donating her kidney. The authorisation committee comprises chairman and JJ Hospital superintendent Dr Sanjay Surase, and a professor each from the forensic medicine, physiology, surgery, and general medicine departments.
According to DMER, for an unrelated organ transplant, the file is forwarded from the hospital concerned to JJ Hospital where a social worker checks all documents and submits the file to the hospital superintendent. The application is then scrutinised by the authorisation committee. Once the committee approves, the NOC is given to hospital to conduct the transplant surgery.
Khan, who suffers from polycystic kidney disease, a genetic disease, has been under treatment since four years. Earlier a welder, he had to start selling vegetables after he could no longer continue welding work.
On Tuesday, a three-member committee appointed by DMER will also investigate if the donor had been offered financial incentives to give his kidney. “We are also checking if Raheja Hospital has any role in it. But it seems this is just one case,” Shingare said.
According to Dr M B Tayade, dean in-charge at JJ Hospital, social worker Savalkar aids patients in a range of issues, starting from organ transplant to financial aid in treatment. “We are looking into it, but there does not seem to be any other complaint against him,” Tayade said.
Senior administrative officials at JJ Hospital said Savalkar is a class III employee, who does not approve organ transplants. “His role is limited to providing files whenever authorisation is required,” the official said.
Meanwhile, the two accused have been remanded in police custody till October 4. An officer from ACB said, “We conducted searches at the residences of both accused. We have also seized paperwork from their offices. We are interrogating the accused to find out if they have taken bribes in the past and if anyone else was involved in the matter. Investigation is at a preliminary stage.”