Calcutta, July 11: In a healthcare set-up where blood pressure instruments have to be slapped to make the mercury move and weighing machines stamped on to make the scales tilt, the consumer affairs department has decided to check the calibration of medical equipment.
Stethoscopes, BP machines, weighing scales and thermometers are some of the instruments to be checked for faults.
Officials cited two instances that necessitated the drive.
A man was rushed to SSKM Hospital following pain in the chest. The doctor measuring his blood pressure there found to his dismay that the mercury was not moving despite the squeeze on the balloon. A few knocks on the machine and it was working again. The pressure read 90/130, high by the gentleman’s standards. His pressure had been low all along and he was under medication to keep it “normal”. From SSKM, he went to a private practitioner, who read his pressure 70/110.
A Salt Lake schoolteacher with a gastro ailment went to the state general hospital for a monthly check-up. The doctor asked him to get his weight. He stood on the weighing machine but the scale did not tilt. A couple of kicks and it shook out of sleep. Alok Bhattacharjee weighed 80 kg according to the scale, at least 25 kg more than his normal.
According to rules, medical equipment must be calibrated once every year and verified by the legal metrology department. Violation of the norm attracts a fine of up to Rs 5,000 or jail.
“We conducted a surprise check on medical equipment at three private hospitals and one state-run hospital in the past fortnight and found the equipment were not calibrated for years. In fact, never since procurement,’’ a consumer affairs department official said.
“Neither government hospitals nor those private bother to get their equipment calibrated and stamped by the consumer affairs department. I have received several complaints on faulty medical equipment…Wonder how proper treatment will be done on the basis of clinical tests conducted with faulty equipment,” said consumer affairs minister Naren Dey.
He added: “We have decided to check the common medical equipment in hospitals, both government and private.’’
A meeting with health department officials to chalk out how the tests are to be carried out would take place soon.
“Machines to weigh vegetables and machines to measure blood pressure or body temperature are not the same. Use of faulty medical equipment is a criminal offence,’’ the minister said. His department would set up a special team to check the equipment.
Health officials said hospital authorities contract the company supplying the equipment for annual maintenance but they “do not turn up in time”.
Controller of legal metrology Ashok Bhattacharya said he has a plan of action ready to check medical equipment in private hospitals, nursing homes and at stores.
What will begin with the city and adjoining areas may also be extended to the districts.