Attempts are being made to sweep the contaminated syringes affair under the carpet and the culprits are likely to get away despite a number of deaths due to meningitis, health sector sources said.
The Health Ministry is trying to hush up the investigations over the purchase of Meningitis contaminated syringes by the Medical Supplies Division (MSD). After the Meningitis outbreak, the Health Ministry appointed several committees to investigate the issue, but no action had been taken against the MSD officials who were responsible for purchasing the infected syringes, the sources said.
A total of 17 Meningitis cases had been reported from the De Soyza maternity hospital, Sri Jayawardanapura hospital and Karapitiya teaching hospital. Of them, two mothers had died at the De Soyza maternity hospital. Meningitis affected two children at the Karapitiya teaching hospital in Galle, despite the Ministry acting to remove the contaminated syringes. A medical officer attached to the Jayawardanapura hospital also was affected by the disease.
Shortly after the spread of Meningitis, the Ministry appointed two committees, one committee chaired by Dr. Terence de Silva, Deputy Director General of Health Service and other chaired by Dr. Athula Kahandaliyanage, Director General of Health Services, to investigate the matter. Each committee had 20 medical experts.
The Ministry again appointed a four member committee to investigate the overseas companies involved in the issue.
That committee was scheduled to travel to several countries, US, India, Malaysia and China, spending millions of public funds, to inspect the drug companies which supply drugs to the MSD. A doctor attached to the MSD, who was responsible for the purchase of those syringes, had been named in this four-member committee. This overseas tour however was suddenly cancelled after The Island front page exposure `Doctor appointed judge himself` on September 21.
However, the health sector trade unions, at that time asked how an officer who was responsible for the purchase could be appointed as the chairperson of the probe committee. This doctor, trade unions alleged, had taken bribes from pharmaceutical suppliers to approve the purchase of that particular lot of syringes.
The World Health Organisation`s experts came to the country to investigate the matter and they had detected that it was due to the bad storage system. But, the Ministry did not act on the WHO report.
Meanwhile, the MSD faces a problem of lack of syringes due the import of syringes being stopped. The Island learns that a number of syringes are being re-used due to this.