Doctor Who Complained About Faulty PM-CARES Ventilators Suspended for 'Medical Negligence'

The hospital Dr Neha Agarwal works at has stood by her, and said she is not guilty of any negligence. However, the state administration has suspended her.

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Kanpur: A doctor in Kanpur who raised her voice against sub-standard ventilators provided under the PM-CARES Fund has been suspended for “medical negligence” which allegedly caused a child’s death.

According to the state administration, orders for Dr Neha Agarwal’s suspension have been sent to the Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Memorial Medical College (GSVM).

Dr Agarwal, who was in charge of the paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in GSVM, had written a letter to her head of the department (HoD) informing him about two faulty ventilators. In her letter, the doctor said that the ventilators from Aqva Healthcare company, received by the department under the PM-CARES Fund, work only intermittently.

The HoD, Yashwant K. Rao, had then written a letter to the then principal, R.B. Kamal, on July 6, informing him about the faulty ventilators. Rao also refused to use the ventilators in the future, citing a child’s death allegedly because one such ventilator stopped working abruptly.

Rao also demanded a ventilator from another company. He also informed the GSVM administration that despite the ventilator being repaired several times, the problem could not be solved. These two letters stirred the medical college as well as the state administration.

Earlier, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had also raised the issue of sub-standard ventilators. On July 5, 2020, he accused the Narendra Modi government of purchasing sub-standard products on social media.

Gandhi had specifically shared a link pertaining to one manufacturer – AgVa Healthcare. In its response, the company said that the former Congress chief is not a doctor and they would be “happy to give him a demonstration” of their product.

In accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, some ventilators were purchased to tackle the COVID-19 surge from indigenous manufacturer AgVa through the PM-CARES Fund.

According to GSVM principal Dr Sanjay Kala, his college had received as many as 26 ventilators in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic under the PM-CARES Fund. Two of them had been used by the paediatric department. He said that the then principal, Dr R.B. Kamal, informed the state authorities about the faulty ventilators and also requested for a replacement. On being asked about the child’s death, he replied, “I was not the principal that time.”

In the first week of July, one of the ventilators stopped working abruptly. It was being used for the treatment of a child suffering from tuberculous meningitis.

Also read: PM-CARES Paid Only for Three Quarters of Ventilators Ordered In April, RTI Query Finds

Doctors on duty shifted the patients to an advanced ventilator. The child died after four days. After this, Dr Aggarwal wrote a letter to the head of the department, saying that the ventilators were not working properly.

The government has  now held Dr Agarwal responsible for the child’s death and issued orders for her suspension. However, sources in the college administration say that so far, the government has neither probed the child’s death nor the complaint of sub-standard ventilators.

Instead, when the child’s death and faulty ventilator issue first became public, an inquiry was conducted by a three-member committee of GSVM doctors. The committee had given a clean chit to Dr Agarwal in its investigation report. It said that the child died during the ongoing treatment under the supervision of the HoD, paediatrics. The patient was also attended to by doctors in the neurology department.

Sources revealed that a three-member committee comprising Dr Roopa Dalmiya Singh from the paediatrics department, Dr Chandrashekhar from anaesthesia and Dr Saurabh Agarwal from medicine was constituted on Kala’s instructions.

When contacted by The Wire, principal secretary, medical education Alok Kumar confirmed that Dr Agarwal has been suspended. Kumar also added that his office dispatched the order for her suspension to GSVM on July 29. On being asked why the administration has suspended her, he replied that action was taken by his department based on reports sent by the medical college, which clearly mentioned the child’s death.

Principal of the GSVM, Kala, who is out of town for some official work, told The Wire on the phone that his office in Kanpur received an order for her suspension. However, the newly appointed principal supported Dr Agarwal and said that he has written a letter to the medical education department on the basis of an internal probe, and asked the top authorities to review their decision on her suspension.

The Wire also contacted Dr Agarwal for her comments, but she said all queries should be directed at the principal. However, HoD Rao said that his letter was misread by the top government officials who took a harsh decision against Dr Agarwal. He added that he never wrote that a child died because the ventilator stopped abruptly. Even the parents of a deceased child did not complain against any of our medical staff, Rao said.