There's a scam at SSKM Hospital and the authorities are turning a deaf ear ' deliberately.
During inspections at the hospital, the state health department has, on several occasions, misled the Medical Council of India (MCI) by making it believe that the ENT department is equipped with audiometry facilities, one of the pre-requisites for seeking undergraduate medical education status in a hospital.
An audiometry test reveals the extent of nerve damage and the precise state of an ear disease. Owing to the absence of the facility at SSKM, ENT experts are depending solely on their clinical eye to judge a patient's condition, and thereby putting them to great risk.
Of 500 surgeries carried out at the hospital's ENT department every month, 80 per cent of patients suffer ear problems, ranging from otosclerosis (bony growth in ear), chronic supprative otitis media (pus formation) to secretary otitis media (secretion from ear), that require the audiometry test.
'At least 50 per cent of patients come back to us every month despite surgery. We are acting blindfolded now, but is there any choice' We cannot throw out patients or say no to them,' said a senior doctor at SSKM on Wednesday.
The MCI carries out regular inspections in medical colleges to check if they have all the mandatory facilities to run an undergraduate course, of which audiometry is an essential component.
The most recent case of the state health department 'hoodwinking' the MCI is only three months old. The department asked an audiologist, who had resigned nearly two years earlier, to pose as regular staff in front of an old audiometry machine for the benefit of the MCI inspectors.
For the past year-and-a-half, SSKM has been carrying out complicated surgeries of the ear without the mandatory audiological test, contrary to MCI norms. The hospital has an antediluvian audiometry machine, but no one to run it.
'We have been trying desperately to get an audiologist, and I am hopeful that the government will understand the gravity of the situation and appoint an audiologist immediately,' was all SSKM Hospital superintendent Santanu Tripathi would say.
MCI officers in Delhi, who were completely in the dark about the situation, said they would take the matter up with the Bengal government.
'A proper audiological facility is definitely one of the pre-conditions for granting recognition to a medical college. We will certainly look into this matter,' said Ketan Desai, former chairman of MCI.
In the absence of an audiometry test, only the few who can pay for it get it done from diagnostic centres outside SSKM Hospital, say doctors. Patients suffering from tinnitus (ringing sensation in the ear), vertigo and deafness must also undergo an audiometry test before treatment.
Hoping that an audiologist would be appointed soon, the hospital has built a special audio-vestibular unit (sound-proof room). But nothing else has moved so far.
C.R. Maiti, director of medical education, said efforts were underway to get a suitable candidate for the post. 'We are also studying a public-private proposal submitted by a doctor,' he added.
Anirban Biswas, an expert in audiometry who had tabled the proposal four months ago, said: 'This test is the most vital for treating any ear disease. Conducting a surgery without an audiometry test is an offence.'