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Questions Raised Over Goa STEMI Device Contract

Days after Goa witnessed the launch of the STEMI (segment elevation myocardial infraction) project, allegations of irregularities in the contract have surfaced, along with questions over the 12 medical devices Goa Medical College is procuring. Kallows Engineering India, a Ponda-based medical devices manufacturer which is the technology partner for the STEMI India program, says the decision of the health department to award the contract after bypassing the tender process has given rise to suspicion. “A STEMI program anywhere in the world is run on a 12-channel ECG machine with simultaneous acquisition and not a 4-channel ECG machine like the one selected by the Goa government,” said managing director of Kallows Engineering, Gajanan Nagarsekar. “Using anything below a 12 channel ECG machine can give rise to potential for diagnostic errors.” Head of cardiology at GMC Dr Guruprasad Naik, the program head for STEMI Goa, refuted the allegations and said the number of channels would not affect diagnostic reports from the tele-ECG devices. “I have absolutely no qualms about the ECG machines. Many doctors evaluated the device and it was cleared,” he said.

STEMI, a state-wide program, will allow advanced diagnosis of cardiovascular diseases and care coordination for heart attacks to be done in minutes using a cloud-connected ECG machine. As STEMI India technical partner, Kallows has deployed 750 tele-ECG machines across the country including at Apollo Hospitals, Narayana Hrudayalaya, and government hospitals in Telangana. According to Nagarsekar, the directorate of health services floated a tender on April 17 for the tele-ECG machines. Three companies bid for the project, including Kallows Engineering, but they were subsequently disqualified and in August, a direct contract was awarded to Bengaluru-based firm Tri-Cog Health Services private limited. “The contract route was misused to favor one firm,” he said. “The machines being procured are not even ISO-certified. The tele-ECG devices being purchased use a modified GE ECG machine.”

Dr Naik said though the tender process was initiated, it was subsequently scrapped after the directorate of health services disqualified all firms that bid for the project. Interestingly, Kallows Engineering was awarded the Chief Minister’s Award for Best Technology Startup for its work in advanced mobile health. The startup is ISO 13485:2016 certified and has a US patent. The firm has accused the state of deliberately side-lining Goan firms despite the Goa IT Policy and Goa Startup Policy outlining a vision to promote local companies. – TOI