Hospitals reuse and re-bill for cardiac devices

Private hospitals have been reusing disposable medical devices like catheters, guide wires and balloons used in angioplasties, the Times of India reported on Sunday. Reusing these devices adds to the risk of infection of patients.

The devices are also repeatedly billed. Hospitals have been making profits of between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000 by avoiding buying new devices and billing multiple patients for the same device, the report says. The health ministry has taken a serious view of the issue and, in an office memorandum, warned against reuse of disposable surgical items, particularly those used in cardiology. The ministry has threatened “suitable action” including withdrawal of empanelment with Central Government Health Schemes against defaulters but does not say what action will be taken against corporate hospitals that are not empaneled under the with Central Government Health Schemes.

All disposable items have clear instructions on the packaging saying they should be used only once and cannot be resterilised. Some cardiologists and cath lab technicians in private hospitals, as well as medical device dealers admitted that reuse was common.

One cardiologists suggested that chain hospitals are the worst offenders with reuse an item five or six times being lauded as a great example of cost saving and pushed as standard operating procedure across the entire chain. However, reusing of items with patients’ consent to reduce costs for the poor should not be treated as criminal acts, he added.

Whatsapp messages fuelling vaccination rumours

A viral Whatsapp message is being circulated warning parents to keep their children away from the government’s vaccination drive for measles and rubella. The message incorrectly claimed that the vaccination is meant to render children from families of minority communities impotent, The Hindu reported.

This comes days after the union Home Minister Kiren Rijuju made a controversial statement about Hindu population declining and is being linked to growing sentiment against vaccination drives. Deputy Commissioner of Immunisation Pradeep Haldar expressed concern about these messages saying that politics should not enter immunisation policy. The Hindu quoted sources within the health ministry saying that Rijiju’s remarks are being quoted as “proof” that the government is “concerned about reducing Hindu population and thereby taking measures to curb the Muslim population in the country.”

This Indian government is undertaking measles-rubella immunisation drives in five states this month targeting nearly 41 crore children.

Two Indians die every minute due to air pollution

More than one million Indians die every year due to air pollution and every minute two lives are lost in India due to ambient air pollution, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet, which also reiterates that some of the worst polluted cities of the world are in India.

The smog over northern India is extracting a heavy toll with Patna and New Delhi the worst polluted cities of the world for PM 2.5 levels or fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns that penetrates most deeply into human bodies causing the most damage.

Air pollution has also emerged as the deadliest form of pollution and the fourth leading risk factor for premature deaths worldwide. The study released this week but based on 2010 data estimates that globally 2.7-3.4 million preterm births may be associated with PM2.5 exposure and South Asia is the worst hit accounting for 1.6 million pre-term births.

An estimated 18,000 people die every day due to air pollution exposure, making it the world’s largest single environmental health risk. The study says causes of air pollution and climate change are intricately linked and needed to be tackled together.