Powai's Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, which is embroiled in a kidney racket, had been warned of questionable practices going on at a few private healthcare centres in the city, but chose to ignore it, according to senior health department officials.
About a month ago, the Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER) had sent a communication to nine hospitals, including Hiranandani, after it received allegations that transplant coordinators were demanding kickbacks to clear files.
The letter dated June 9, signed by DMER chief Dr Pravin Shingare, asked the hospitals not to indulge in any dubious activity. It further warned that a transplant coordinator can be jailed up to 10 years for violating the Human Organ Transplantation Act, 1994. Hiranandani hospital got into a mess after a police raid on July 14 exposed that two completely unrelated people, posing as wife and husband, had managed to clear all the formalities required for a kidney transplant, using fake documents. Under the law, a patient can receive a kidney only from a close relative.
While four people were arrested on the day, the police later arrested the Powai hospital's transplant coordinator Nilesh Kamble in connection with the case. Kamble, the seventh person to be arrested in the case, was attached to the hospital for past five years. Dr Shingare said he decided to warn the hospitals after a man, who had donated a kidney to his mother, complained to him that he had paid money to a transplant coordinator to expedite his file. Quoting the coordinator, the man also alleged that a share of the bribe went to government officials. "He was not keen on filing a complaint and didn't want to pursue the case. Still, we sent a letter to nine private hospitals, including the Hiranandani, warning them that such illegal practice was not acceptable," said Dr Shingare.
The DMER director said the Powai hospital ignored the warning. "It is the hospital's responsibility to check the documents. They have their own ethical committee, but they didn't verify the papers."
Dr Shingare said the 'recipient', Suratbased businessman Brijkishor Jaiswal, was in touch with nephrologist Dr Mukesh Shete and coordinator Kamble for past three months. "There are a set of questions that can easily let a hospital staff find whether the donor and recipient are a couple or not. Fake documents can also be identified. With the investigation on, I am sure more names will be out."
Dr Gauri Rathod, nodal officer, human organ transplant coordinator of state health services, said the government has already suspended the hospital's licence to conduct organ transplants. "We have formed a committee to probe the illegality." She said they will also scrutinise documents of people who have undergone a kidney transplant at the hospital this year.
Dr Sujata Patwardhan, secretary of Zonal Transplant Coordination Committee (ZTCC), said Kamble didn't attend her meeting with transplant coordinators. "In the past one year, I have never seen him coming for ZTCC meetings. We don't know for how long he was doing this illegal practice."
MULTI-STATE RACKET: COPS
The Powai police believe that people from Mumbai, Gujarat and other states are involved in the Hiranandani kidney racket. Source said the kingpin, Brijendra Bisen, has told the police that he was approached by Jaiswal, who had learnt about him from one of his clients. He had struck the deal with Jaiswal for Rs 25 lakh. Bisen then alerted his accomplishes in Gujarat. Once they found a donor from Anand district, Bisen insisted that the surgery be carried out at Powai. This points to involvement of coordinator Kamble, said sources. The police have also picked up three people from Anand and are looking for Bisen's client who gave his details to Jaiswal.
COOPERATING WITH AUTHORITIES: HOSPITAL
Authorities at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital said they have taken the allegations seriously and terminated the services of the person concerned. "We are fully cooperating with the investigating agencies. The hospital has constituted an internal committee of five doctors and we are also looking at engaging external consultants to further strengthen the screening and authorisation process for transplants."
The hospital management said they adhere to all procedures mandated by the law and will further strengthen their processes based on the advice of the committee. "As a healthcare institution of repute, we take matters of ethics and compliance seriously and are working towards building more safeguards to detect and avoid fraudulent cases."