Lab technician suspended for false COVID-19 positive report

K. Panduranga, a junior lab technician attached to Kurgod Community Health Centre in Ballari, has been placed under suspension for issuing a COVID-19 positive report to a woman who died a natural death two months ago.

It is learnt that Panduranga, on Saturday, issued a COVID-19 positive report for H. Shankramma, a native of Kyadigehal village, who died of natural causes on May 19, 2021.

As per information provided by District Health and Family Welfare Officer Janardhan H.L., a probe that was conducted on Monday in the presence of District Vigilance Officer, Taluk Health and Family Welfare Officer, Kurgod Taluk COVID-19 Nodal Officer and microbiologist of the lab and an analysis of COVID-19 Sample Collection Management System for Rapid Antigen and RT-PCR test data revealed that Panduranga had, on Saturday, created a SRFID using his own number and generated a false test report showing that Shankramma had tested positive for COVID-19.

The officer added that the accused created the SRFID and generated the false test report between 12.15 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. on Saturday, though he was not on swab testing duty.

Upon finding substantial evidence, a complaint was then lodged at Kurgod Police Station. The police filed a First Information Report against Panduranga under Indian Penal Code Sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating) and 477 A (falsification of accounts) at about 7 p.m. on Monday. Dr. Janardhan, exercising his powers conferred under Rule 10(1) of the Karnataka Civil Service (Classification Control & Appeal) Rules 1957, placed the accused under suspension the same day.

Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Janardhan said that the involvement of the family members of the deceased Shankramma is also suspected in the case.

“The government has recently announced a compensation of ₹1 lakh to families that have lost their members to COVID-19 and the fraud committed by Panduranga is clearly for getting compensation. In the initial investigation, it is learnt that the family members of the deceased are also involved in the crime. As, when our officers contacted the mobile number recorded against Shankramma for swab test, the family members, who were unaware of the caller, said that Shankramma died a natural death a week ago. Our probe revealed that she died a natural death two months ago,” Dr. Janardhan said.

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