The kidney, which was harvested from a 34-year-old brain dead donor in Ernakulam, was brought to the state capital on Sunday evening after traversing more than 200 km.

Veena George
news Controversy Tuesday, June 21, 2022 - 17:23

A patient who underwent a kidney transplant on Sunday, died at the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College hospital on June 20, Monday. What is now unravelling in Kerala is an elaborate blame game with everyone from the Health Minister, doctors at the hospital, ambulance drivers and others pointing fingers at each other for the death of 62-year-old Suresh Kumarh.

The kidney, which was harvested from a 34-year-old brain dead donor in Ernakulam, was brought to the state capital on Sunday evening after traversing more than 200 km. Media reports allege that there was a delay of around three hours for the kidney transplant to begin even after the organ reached the hospital in Thiruvananthapuram.

A video which was aired by television channels showed two people receiving the organ from the ambulance as soon as it reached the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College and taking it inside the hospital. It is clear from the visuals that other than a security guard, no other staff from the hospital had been waiting to receive the kidney.

Health Minister Veena George, while acknowledging that responsible officers were not present at the hospital entrance when the ambulance reached the portico of the hospital to receive the organ, shifted some of the blame to the two men who carried the ice box with the kidney into the hospital. The ambulance reached the hospital at around 6pm on Sunday, according to reports.

“Before two doctors from the ambulance could get down, two unidentified men took the box and ran into the hospital as per the hospital authorities. There will be an inquiry on who the men were,” she told the media. These people did not know where the Operation Theatre was and it caused some confusion, she added.

One of the men, Arun Dev, an ambulance driver, told the media that he decided to help as hospital authorities were not available to receive the organ. “I work here and as soon as we heard that a green corridor ambulance is coming, I helped to clear the traffic at the hospital. When the ambulance arrived, there was no one around. Two of us, along with one of the doctors who were inside the ambulance rushed with the ice box. But no one at the reception knew where the surgery was. Finally we were directed to the Operation Theatre and we had to wait outside since it was locked,” Arun Dev said.  

Arun also told the media that he was upset that his good intentions had been viewed with suspicion.

The minister also added that after a preliminary report of the Additional Chief Secretary (Health), action has been taken against the department heads suspecting lack of coordination during the arrival of the harvested kidney from Ernakulam.

"The hospital authorities have complained that when the organ arrived from Ernakulam, some persons other than hospital staff carried the box containing the organ from the ambulance to inside the hospital. This will be investigated," the minister said.

State Health Minister Veena George, who met the media said the heads of Nephrology and Urology departments in the medical college hospital have been suspended pending inquiry for lack of coordination in the kidney transplant incident.

Meanwhile, doctors at the hospital have said it is not their fault that the patient passed away and that there was no delay in the surgery.

Kerala Government Medical College Teachers Association (KGMCTA) President Dr Binoy told Asianet News that the patient did not die because of a delay in treatment. “At 2:45 am (on Sunday), we got to know that a kidney donation had been made. Immediately, we called six prospective candidates and found that it matched one person. We started hemo-dialysis because that is needed. He had breathing trouble and needed one more session. So at 7pm he was taken for another dialysis and that took an hour. At 8pm he was moved to the operation theatre. It is an extensive surgery that requires preparation. It took another hour to prepare the patient. The surgery started at 9 pm. The man had end-stage renal disease and his life was in danger,” Dr Binoy said.

The transplant was completed in around eight hours, but the patient passed away on the morning of June 21. The minister said the actual reason behind the death can be ascertained only after the post-mortem report comes.

Meanwhile, a relative of the deceased patient said they did not feel any sort of lapse or apathy on behalf of the hospital authorities.

"The doctors had told us that his health was not good enough to conduct a surgery. They asked us to rethink. But since the family received a kidney for transplant after waiting for five years, they decided to go forward with the surgery. We have not felt any kind of apathy or lapse. We came to know about such things through the media," a relative told the media.

In the meantime, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan attacked the Left government and said the state administration and the health minister cannot escape from the responsibility in the matter. He sought strict action in the matter.

"There were lapses in arranging the operation which was jointly conducted by the Nephrology and Urology departments. The health minister and the state government cannot skirt the responsibility of this serious negligence. This government is nullifying all the achievements which Kerala has gained in the health sector over the years," Satheesan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the State Human Rights Commission registered a case in this connection and directed the Director of Medical Education to inquire into the incident and file a detailed report within four weeks.

The panel initiated the probe following a complaint lodged by two rights activists.

The kidney was transported from Ernakulam to Thiruvananthapuram in an ambulance on Sunday within 2.5 hours, through a "Green Corridor System".

A green corridor is a special traffic route set up with the help of police, to facilitate smooth and fast transportation of vital organs to save human lives.

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