Calcutta, Oct. 24: As he read today about Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s clean chit to the health department in the blood-test kit scam, a lab technician would have been reminded of the feeling he had 17 months ago.
“This can’t be true,” he had then thought, giving the blood test report in his hand one more perplexed scan at NRS Medical College. It said the sample had tested negative for Hepatitis B and C.
Yet the dark yellow blood serum had clearly pointed to hepatitis. The A and E forms had already been ruled out and B and C were the remaining possibilities. But the blood tests, done with kit supplied by Govind Sarda’s Monozyme India, were negative for both.
Certain that there was something wrong with the kit, the technician had reported the matter to his senior, who got in touch with the West Bengal State Aids Prevention and Control Society, which had approved the kits.
This was in May 2005, 16 months before the police recorded the first complaint about the kits, past their expiry dates.
Over the next few months, complaints poured in from other government hospitals too, sources said. Apart from the WBSAPCS, there were calls to the state health department and state drug controller.
“An impression has been created as if the health department knew about the matter and wanted to keep it under wraps,” Bhattacharjee had said yesterday. “This is totally false.”
“For over a year before the police got on the case, we had been receiving complaints from blood banks in city government hospitals,” admitted a health official.
The complaints were the same.
“We told the health department there was something amiss with the kits,” a doctor at SSKM hospital said. “But they didn’t react.”
Things got moving only on September 1 this year, when two Monozyme employees spilled the beans.
Why did the health authorities not react'
Health minister Surjya Kanta Mishra said: “Our department was the first to lodge a complaint with the police about the defective kits.” The chief minister had echoed this.
But the drug controller lodged the complaint with the police only on September 27, when the probe was already on.