THOUGH the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested JJ Hospital social worker Tushar Savarkar only this Monday, a complaint that he and possibly other officials were allegedly seeking bribes from patients to process no-objection certificates for organ transplant procedures was first reported to the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) as far back as 2017.
Senior state health officials said that in December 2017, the DHS wrote to all hospitals in Maharashtra that are registered to conduct organ transplantation procedures regarding such a complaint. The letter, accessed by The Indian Express, dated December 8, 2017, said: “It has come to the notice of this office that some miscreants are asking money from relatives of patients to get quick permission from the authorisation committees.”
The letter asked hospitals to warn patients against paying any extra charges except for authorisation fees levied by the state government.
The DHS observed that this was a “serious issue”. A copy of that letter was also marked to the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER).
Officials claim the complaint first came from Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, against Savarkar. “The same social worker was named back then,” a senior DHS official said.
On Monday, the ACB arrested 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.
When contacted, former dean of JJ Hospital Dr T P Lahane said that Savarkar had been removed earlier from the state authorisation committee in JJ Hospital. According to officials, Savarkar was later reinstated after Dr Sanjay Surase took over as medical superintendent of the hospital and as chairman of the state authorisation committee.
On Wednesday, the state authorisation committee at JJ Hospital was suspended by the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER). “For future permissions to conduct live organ transplants, a committee formed by DMER will conduct proceedings,” said Dr Pravin Shingare, director at DMER.
An official spokesperson from Raheja Hospital said, “The hospital does not conform to these actions taken by the individual, and strongly condemns it. We adhere to the highest ethical standards and strictly follow the prescribed guidelines as per the Human Organ Transplant Act. We have zero tolerance to non-compliance with laws and will ensure complete cooperation with the authorities. We have initiated investigation and will take strictest action against the individual as per law.”