LARKANA: Senior Minister for Parliamentary Affairs and Food Nisar Ahmed Khuhro on Tuesday visited the Chandka Medical College Hospital’s city block and and inspected the machinery and equipment of the nephrology unit to collect first-hand information about how scores of patients put on dialysis there contracted HIV/Aids in recent weeks.

Amid strong suspicion that some doctors and paramedics handling the dialysis unit had performed the medical process without doing necessary blood screening for HIV/Aids and hepatitis, the minister asked the health secretary to constitute an inquiry committee to look into the matter and fix responsibility.

CMCH managers and representatives of the Sindh Aids Control Programme (SACP) and Sindh Blood Transfusion Authority (SBTA) briefed Mr Khuhro about the routine treatment process at the dialysis unit and suspected HIV/Aids cases in question. The minister also received input from the patients.

While speaking to journalists, Mr Khuhro sought answers to the questions arising out of the serious development. “Where was the SBTA when first of the so many HIV/Aids cases in the kidney patients put on dialysis here emerged? Was it in slumber? What the institution has been doing since long? What is the reason behind its inaction?” he posed the questions.

The minister quoted the CMCH managers as telling him that more than 50 cases of HIV/Aids had emerged in the kidney patients who had regularly been getting dialysis at this unit.

The unit was shifted to the CMCH city block to ensure perfect treatment and better facilities available here after complaints of subsoil water unfit for human consumption being used at the place it was originally functioning. At present, there are 18 dialysis machines installed in the unit but only 10 of them are in working condition. Some of the remaining ones have been declared ‘dead’.

The minister told the media that he would submit his report to the chief minister to apprise him about the magnitude of the issue and recommend installation of an adequate number of dialysis machines keeping in view the requirement.

Accompanied by Larkana Commissioner Inamullah Dharejo and Mayor Aslam Shaikh, Mr Khuhro said that the proposed inquiry committee should thoroughly investigate the issue and identify the causes and points to ponder over. “The SBTA should also be included in the investigation with focus on its inability to monitor and take action against the blood banks involved in illegal business,” the minister said.

The minister was informed by some patients and their relatives that the mandatory dialysis session time of four hours was not given to patients and in many cases the process was stopped after two-and-a-half hours or so. The unit had no centrally-supplied oxygen system essentially required in emergencies while all patients were kept without monitors, he was told.

CMCH medical superintendent Dr Javed Shaikh, nephrology unit head Dr Zahid Shaikh, registrar Dr Shahid and others were present while the minister spoke to the media.

Later, a notification was issued by the health secretary with regard to the constitution of the inquiry committee. It will submit its report within the next three days, says the notification. It read: “The health department is in receipt of reports that most of the patients of kidney failure whose dialysis has been done in Larkana have been found HIV-positive at SIUT [Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation], Karachi. In order to ascertain the factual position following committee is constituted with the ToRs to submit report within three days positively.”

The committee comprises Prof Akbar Ali Soomro (pathologist), Dr Muhammed Younis Chachar (SACP project director) and Dr Zahid Ali Ansari (SBTA managing director) as well as the CMCH medial superintendent and the district health officer, according to the notification.

“The committee shall investigate the dialysis process and blood transfusion facilities at Larkana to identify the source of HIV infection. The committee shall also recommend the measures to be taken to control the spread of HIV/Aids in kidney failure patients in Larkana,” it said.

Meanwhile, continuing a joint operation against illegal/ill-equipped blood banks and laboratories, SBTA and SACP teams on Tuesday sealed four blood banks in Shahdadkot town. Sixteen blood banks in Qambar and three in Larkana had already been sealed during the operation.

The teams identified the facilities sealed on Tuesday as Ajwa Blood Bank, Bismillah Blood Bank, Bhittai Blood Bank and Chandka Blood Bank.

Published in Dawn October 12th, 2016

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