Nepal’s Manipal college caught in HIV test kit controversy

August 26th, 2008 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Aug 26 (IANS) The Manipal College of Medical Sciences, one of the premier teaching institutes in Nepal run by India’s Pai business group, is in the eye of a storm after an infant born there was found to be HIV positive.The trouble started around two months ago when a woman in labour was brought to the 700-bed hospital run by the college in Pokhara town in central Kaski district.

Maya Gurung gave birth to twins, of whom one died during birth while the other, a boy, survived.

“It was a premature birth and the babies were underweight,” Manipal’s dean B.M. Nagpal told IANS Tuesday. “The surviving boy needed a blood transfusion.”

As per the rule laid down by Nepal’s government, all hospitals have to use blood provided by the patients’ families. Also, the rule says the blood has to be tested for HIV by using medical kits recommended by the Nepal Red Cross Society (NRC).

“We used the NRC kit and the blood tested HIV negative,” Nagpal said.

Consequently, the baby was given the tested blood. However, some time later, when he did not respond to treatment, doctors grew apprehensive and decided to conduct a test on their own.

This time, the blood sample tested in the college’s own microbiology laboratory was found to be HIV positive.

“When there are conflicting results, the blood has to be tested thrice more,” Nagpal said. “We did that as well as test the blood of the parents to see if the infection could have come from them. While the parents tested negative, the baby’s blood, however, was found to be HIV positive.”

When the doctors, certain that the blood was tainted, tested it yet again using the NRC supplied medical kit, it was found to be HIV negative once again.

“It is a matter of huge concern for us,” Nagpal said. “All over Nepal, hospitals are conducting blood tests using the NRC approved kit. If the kit is faulty, it is a serious issue as there could be other erroneous tests.”

The kit recommended by the NRC is manufactured by Israel’s Orgenics company.

The concerned Manipal authorities wrote to Nepal’s health ministry as well as the NRC authorities and on Tuesday, received a letter from the latter, saying the kits would be investigated.

However, the Indian college and hospital is now paying the price for the faulty kit with the enraged parents of the boy laying siege to the hospital.

Accusing the hospital of infecting the boy and causing the death of the other child due to negligence, they have been trying to make the hospital pay for the boy’s treatment as well as give them “compensation”.

“We run a Poor Patients’ Fund at the hospital and we agreed to put Nepali Rs.100,000 there for the boy on purely humanitarian grounds,” Nagpal said. “We also agreed on the same grounds to provide free treatment for the baby as long as he is with us.”

The Manipal case is the latest incident in Nepal in a series of attacks on hospitals by patients’ relatives. Doctors went on a nationwide strike recently to protest against the attacks, demanding security for hospital personnel.

Manipal’s woes may have been compounded by the fact that it is an Indian organisation. Some incidents at the hospital this year were reportedly blown out of proportion to put pressure on the institution and give it bad publicity. In one case, the then prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala himself had to intervene.

Nearly 60 percent of the doctors and faculty are foreigners, especially Indian. One of them was forced to leave after receiving repeated threatening phone calls.

The Manipal incident comes even as Nepal’s new Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda is seeking greater foreign investment to rebuild the insurgency-ravaged country.

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