The ethics committee of the Andhra Pradesh Medical Council backed by the Medical Council of India (MCI) is investigating a Rs 60 crore medical fraud allegedly committed by 30-odd Guntur government doctors and departmental heads of Aarogyasri Health Care Trust (AHCT).
The fraud, unearthed by AP vigilance and enforcement department last year, revealed that doctors and other staff of Guntur Government General Hospital had used several dubious methods like creating fictitious patients or carrying out unnecessary surgeries on Aarogyasri beneficiaries to claim money from AHCT in collusion with some top officials of the trust.
In their 20-page report, the vigilance department said it verified all hospital records, interviewed patients, doctors and obtained third-party expert opinion. They studied all the 705 surgeries undertaken in cardio-thoracic surgery department since the inception of the Aarogyasri scheme in 2009.
“This is just the tip of the iceberg as a medical fraud of this magnitude cannot be the handiwork of just a few individuals. We are now probing who else are involved in the scam,” said Dr T Narsing Reddy, ethics committee member, AP Medical Council, who is leading a committee to investigate the role of AHCT officials.
In fact, the MCI-backed team is investigating the role of several AHCT officials who released money on the basis of dubious claims made by hospital staff in Aarogyasri procedures. “We do not know yet where the money was deposited and who are involved. But we aim to reach the bottom of the case,” added Dr Reddy.
A three-member expert committee, consulted by the vigilance team before preparing their final report, opined that 26% of the surgeries carried out under Aarogyasri scheme in the hospital’s CST department did not merit any surgery at all. “It was found that in nine cases, surgeries were done with help of two physiotherapists who took the place of anesthetists. They were not at all qualified to administer anesthesia.”
When contacted, the then DME of the erstwhile united state Dr G Shanta Rao, who is now the DME of Andhra Pradesh, said they have sacked a retired professor, who was blamed for the fraud. “Though action was taken against only one person, I believe disciplinary action should be taken against all those who were responsible for crossing the ethical lines,” he said.
Though the vigilance report was submitted to the erstwhile state government in April, 2014, the MCI entered the scene after Shanta Rao sought its intervention to probe violations of Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations by doctors involved in the scam.