– Ambarish B, Sep 7, 2014, Bangalore: DHNS:

# Two pathologists who blew the whistle on a scam worth several crores more than a year ago in the purchase of medical equipment and chemicals at district hospitals in the State have been rewarded with incessant harassment. DH illustraton

Two pathologists who blew the whistle on a scam worth several crores more than a year ago in the purchase of medical equipment and chemicals at district hospitals in the State have been rewarded with incessant harassment.

One of the two, Dr Sharat Rao, is under suspension for nearly one year after he exposed the scam. The other, Dr Veena Rao, was on the verge of a punishment transfer but managed to evade it.
The State Health department, instead of investigating it, has tried to sweep it under the carpet. The only action is that of the Lokayukta police, who are suo motu probing it and have recommended suspension of three officials.

While Dr Sharat Rao is under suspension over an unrelated complaint since the last one year, Dr Veena was almost sent on ‘punishment transfer’ based on a non-existing Lokayukta police report.

Dr Rao and Dr Veena, pathologists at Udupi District Hospital, mailed details of the scam to Principal Secretary Madan Gopal, Department of Health, on April 23, 2013. Gopal appointed a Vigilance Officer to enquire into the scam.

When the enquiry was on, a woman filed a cheating complaint against Dr Rao alleging he had not returned a loan from her. Based on this, the Health department suspended Dr Rao on September 07, 2013. Since then, Dr Rao has not received even the part salary he is entitled to, nor has an enquiry been set up to check the veracity of the cheating complaint.

The Health department last month was about to summarily transfer Dr Veena as a Lokayukta report was said to be pending against her. But the Lokayukta ADGP, HNSRao, shot it down stating, “Dr Veena is a prime witness in the case of irregularities in the purchase of chemicals in Udupi. We have intimated the health department that there is no report against Dr Veena.”

Rao said their investigation had prima facie showed that there was indeed a scam and that the Lokayukta would submit its final report soon.

No suspension notice

The Lokayukta Police in July this year recommended suspension of three officials at Udupi District Hospital for their involvement in the scam. But a Lokayukta official quoting them said they continue to work as they say they have not received the suspension notice. The three officials are Office Superintendent Mohandas Kini, Gazetted Assistant Kumaraswami and District Surgeon Dr Anand Nayak, the official said.

State Health Minister U T Khader said Dr Rao’s suspension was due to his personal problem with a woman. “The department heads will take a call on holding an enquiry against him. As far as the Lokayukta report against Dr Veena is concerned, an enquiry has been ordered,” he said.

The scam involves irregularities in the purchase of machines and chemicals for laboratories in district and taluk hospitals. The two pathologists had alleged that the tender process was of a questionable nature and facilitated the suppliers to make huge profits at the expense of the state exchequer and poor patients.

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