Mass awareness should be generated on organ donation

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has said that he would request the Ministry of Human Resource Development to include in school text books passages and essays that generate in young children a positive attitude towards organ donation in general and eye (cornea) donation in particular.


The minister, who was speaking at the centenary celebrations of Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in Delhi on Saturday, stated that the ongoing National Eye Donation Fortnight (August 25 – September 8), an annual event organised by the National Programme for Control of Blindness, is meeting with good response in a large number of states, including Delhi. It is now felt that youngsters should be exposed to the enormity of the problem of blindness in India and their responsibility to contribute to its end.

“We teach the young the life stories of great savants and leaders with the hope that the new generation will imbibe their qualities. It is also necessary to instil in them their responsibility towards the blind population of India which could benefit if cornea donation becomes part of the nation’s culture,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

He said that eyesight is one of the biggest gifts of God. Unfortunately, the corneal blind population of India is the largest in the world. At a rough estimate, the country needs 1 lakh corneas every year but only about 17,000 are procured. Of these only about 50 per cent are utilised.

According to WHO, there are 45 million blind persons in the world, of whom 12 million are in India. Corneal blindness accounts for 1 per cent of the total blind population of the country. WHO also estimates that the blind population may double by 2020 owing to the rise in population and longevity.

The minister observed, “We need more eye banks. But that is not enough. There should be synergistic interaction among professional health services and community engagement. Increasing public awareness, promoting eye donation, implementing quality standards and organising a network of trained professionals for procurement, preservation and distribution of tissues are vital cogs in the wheel.”

Dr Harsh Vardhan said the history of ophthalmology in the country is inextricably linked to the vision of Dr S P Shroff, who founded the institution in 1914. “Dr S P Shroff was a founding father of the Delhi Medical Association, the precursor of the Indian Medical Association. Both Shroff’s hospital and DMA were established in the same year and have proved to be lasting institutions that have contributed much to India’s development,” he remarked.

The tradition of pledging one’s eyes after death is quite old in Delhi thanks to the pioneering work by Shroff’s Hospital, the minister said. At the function, a number of facilitators and donors’ families from Delhi, Karnal and other places of northern India were honoured, including the parents of a 14-year-old girl and the son of a 65-year-old man. In both cases, the family members showed exemplary presence of mind while making the emotionally heavy choice of donating the just-deceased’s eyes.

In this context, Dr Harsh Vardhan recalled the case of Surabhi, the 16-year-old girl from Krishna Nagar, Delhi, who was declared brain dead in 2013 after being admitted to AIIMS. Her parents took the tough decision to donate her organs for the benefit of people who needed her cornea, heart, liver and other body tissues.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that within a month, the web portal of the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) will become functional. With that it would be possible to establish a transparent interface between donors and recipients of all organs including cornea.

The government intends implementing a nationwide programme for setting up regional centres modelled on NOTTO at Chandigarh, Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. All the upcoming AIIMS at six cities will also have similar infrastructure.

Dr Noshir M Shroff, medical director of Shroff Eye Centre; Dr Madan Mohan, a reputed ophthalmologist; Dr Sara Varughese, a senior ophthalmologist who heads the “Vision 2020” organization; Dr Umang Mathur, medical director of Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital; and A K Arora, administrator of Shroff’s Eye Charity Hospital, were present on the occasion.

Source: IMT

TB prevalence reduced: WHO says

TB prevalence reduced

As per WHO estimations, prevalence of tuberculosis per lakh population in India has reduced from 465 in the year 1990 to 230 in year 2012. Tuberculosis mortality per lakh population has reduced from 38 in the year 1990 to 22 in year 2012, according to Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan.

Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on Friday the health minister said, “The estimated proportion of Multi-Drug Resistant TB cases is not increasing. It is less than 3 per cent among new TB cases and between 12-17 per cent among re-treatment TB cases. However, the detection of MDR-TB cases has been increasing due to availability of more diagnostic facilities for MDR-TB and coverage of the entire country by the management of Drug Resistant TB in the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP), between 2007 and 2013.”

With effective anti-TB Drug regimens administered under the globally acclaimed DOTS strategy, RNTCP has been consistently achieving more than 85 per cent treatment success rates among New Smear Positive Patients since 2001, according to an official statement.

The anti-TB drug regimens used for treatment of MDR-TB under the Revised National Tuberculosis Control Programme are formulated by national experts in accordance with the WHO Guidelines. The treatment outcomes among MDR-TB patients are comparable with global outcomes, the statement said.

The first-line drugs used for new TB cases under RNTCP are a combination of Rifampicin, Isoniazid, Ethambutol and Pyrazinamide, administered as standardized treatment regimen. Injection Streptomycin is an additional drug given to re-treatment cases, it further said.

RNTCP has also introduced paediatric patient wise boxes, with formulations and doses specifically designed for convenient usage in children, according to the statement.

The main second-line anti-TB drugs for treatment of MDR-TB are Kanamycin, Levofloxacin, Ethionamide, Pyrazinamide, Ethambutol and Cycloserine, the statement added.

Source: India Medical Times

Medical Council asked to expedite MBBS seat enhancement


Stung by the Medical Council of India (MCI)’s feet dragging over the MBBS seats cancellation-restoration issue, the union health ministry has urged the statutory body to urgently take a call on compliance reports filed by educational institutions all over the country.

Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said here on Wednesday that about 10,000 meritorious students face a bleak future because of the MCI’s obsession with minor details.

“Most of the deficiencies in the MCI’s reports are about problems with air-conditioning, or about partition walls in buildings and, of course, the shortage of faculty which is an old irritant. But even though most of the colleges have complied with the MCI’s demands, there has been no acknowledgement. This cannot be expected of MCI,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

The minister said senior officials of the ministry, including health secretary Lov Verma, and joint secretary Vishwas Mehta have been forwarding the recommendations of the hearing committee and compliance reports submitted by the various medical colleges. But MCI’s response is awaited, causing anxiety in all quarters, he added.

“The ministry has sent 150 cases, most of them government colleges, for review to MCI but there has been no response. I respect MCI’s autonomy but expect that it appreciates the agony of thousands of meritorious boys and girls whose future is jeopardised by procrastination,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

The minister disclosed that he has received numerous delegations of students, doctors, institution managements, members of parliament and other stakeholders complaining of MCI’s attitude.

“Reports are flooding the ministry of medical colleges, including reputed government-owned ones, cutting their intake of undergraduates for the current academic year. This is worrying for the government because the long-term effect would be a deeper crisis in the availability of qualified doctors. As it happens, India has just one doctor per 1,700 people compared to the global average of 1.5 per 1,000. The government has a policy of meeting the shortfall by opening more medical colleges over the next decade,” according to a statement by the union health ministry.

“MCI had undertaken to send its recommendations to the health ministry for issuance of letters of permission by June 15, 2014 as per a revised schedule made in May. In follow up, the government’s deadline for issuing letters of permission or denial was set for July 15, 2014. But with MCI reneging on its undertaking, the government is dismayed that it would not be in a position to mitigate the suffering of the students,” the statement said.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “It is disturbing that amidst all the reports of students’ agony over the delay, the non-seriousness of the MCI’s Executive Committee is appalling. Yesterday they had a meeting but we are yet to receive word on its outcome.”

In a letter to MCI president Dr Jayshreeben Mehta, health secretary Lov Verma has suggested that MCI should file an interlocutory application before the Supreme Court in the Priya Gupta case. The objective should be to get an extension to August 8, 2014 so that the passing of the present deadline does not have a destructive impact, the statement added.

Source: India Medical Times