The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Probe slap on donation doc
- Govt frown on money nexus, physicians told to toe the line

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's government has ordered an inquiry into the activities of cardiologist Monotosh Panja and advised all medical practitioners in state-run hospitals to stick to the rulebook.

The inquiry involving Panja, head of the cardiology department at SSKM Hospital and a professor with the Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research, follows a report published in Metro on November 27.

The report brought to light how Panja, violating government rules, had solicited a donation of Rs 2 lakh from a multinational pharmaceutical company for the publication of a book.

The doctor had not sought any formal permission from the government or even informed the health department of his plans.

Officials at SSKM Hospital confirmed on Monday that a file containing details of the allegation against the cardiologist had reached Kalyan Bagchi, principal health secretary, who will personally oversee the probe. 'I would not like to comment on which stage the inquiry is currently in,' Bagchi told Metro.

Panja, too, refused comment on the inquiry, but did argue that government rules do not bar doctors from seeking donations from pharma companies for the cause of any organisation.

'I never sought the money for myself, but for a book sponsored by the Association of Physicians of Eastern India,' he stressed.

Prabhakar Chatterjee, director of health services, however, said the government had made it clear to doctors that they should not ask for any money from pharma companies either 'for writing a book' or while 'travelling abroad or anywhere else in the country' for conferences.

'We have been stressing this aspect now and will strengthen our monitoring to demolish any possible nexus developing between doctors and pharma companies,' said Chatterjee.

R.D. Dubey, joint secretary (headquarters), Indian Medical Association, also tagged it 'an extremely unethical practice' that could not be 'supported by anybody'.

Health department sources said the inquiry would also examine charges against certain government doctors who allegedly availed of unauthorised and sponsored air travel and trips abroad.

The reported existence of a racket in pacemakers at SSKM Hospital would also come under the scanner.

'There are damning reports against certain people and we are determined to get to the bottom of it all,' asserted an official.

On Monday, the government asked all health service doctors to abide by the service rules and refrain from soliciting donations or favours for themselves or for organisations without prior permission of the government.

It also urged the doctors' lobbies to help it enforce a code of behaviour for doctors.

'We need cooperation from the people. If anybody has a complaint of corruption against any doctor, we will definitely take action against the guilty,' said health services director Chatterjee.

For now, the government has decided to focus on workshops to drive home to doctors the point about ethical practice and its importance in society. This would help arrest the trend of doctors favouring a few chosen pharma companies, just because they have been supporting the medicine men with donations for a cause, officials said.

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