A Facebook post brought the matter to public attention, and now it is at the centre of political debate. The post highlighted the fact that 26 vials of Tocilizumab injection for treating critical COVID-19 patients worth more than Rs 10 lakh have been lifted from Kolkata Medical College and Hospital in false pretext.
A nurse and two other staffs close to a TMC MLA and influential doctor have been accused in this case. Strangely, though the incident was reported to the government hospital authority hospital more than 10 days ago, no steps have been taken so far.
The whole country is facing a shortage of a plethora of medicines needed for treating covid-19 patients. It has also been reported widely that some rackets are now busy in black-marketing of such drugs.
Tocilizumab is just a goldmine for them as the injection costs about Rs 40,000. In government hospitals of West Bengal, it is administered to the patients free of cost. So getting 26 vials from the government hospital may help a gang to earn 15-20 lakhs as they can sell them in the black market at a higher price.
The Congress and the BJP leadership has accused Dr Nirmal Maji, a TMC MLA who call shots in government hospitals for the last many years, of being the brain behind the operation. Maji was a minister of state in the last ministry of Mamata Banerjee but has been dropped this time.
The Chief Minister however has debunked the claim of his involvement. However, she said the enquiry committee set up by the hospital authority would take appropriate measures. On his part, Maji has described the allegations against him as a ‘conspiracy’.
Incidentally, Dr Maji has hogged headlines for the wrong reason many times in the past. In 2015, he referred his pet dog to SSKM hospital for dialysis using the dialysis machine used for human beings. Dr Pradip Kumar Mitra and Dr Rajendra Pandey, two doctors of the hospital, were allegedly involved in this plan.
Though the dialysis did not happen as the news was leaked in the media, the horrific attempt shook the conscience of the well-meaning people. That a racket is involved in lifting costly Tocilizumab injections from Kolkata Medical College and Hospital is evident from the modus operandi of lifting.
A nurse forwarded the request of procuring these along with ‘specimen examination form’s for testing specimens of the patients at the laboratory, and she was delivered those. An audio clip is now doing rounds in which another lady is heard asking the nurse to sign the receipt. During the conversation, one of them assures the other not to worry as ‘higher ups’ are involved in it.
(The author Diptendra Raychaudhuri is a senior journalist based in Kolkata. He has a wide range of experience in covering West Bengal politics and has authored several books)