Laboratory testing designed to reveal how a large number of surgery patients at the Kajaran Medical Center in Syunik contracted hepatitis C late last year has been completed, this according to Armenia’s Ministry of Health.
When the outbreak occurred in November-December of 2014, Armenia’s health minister called for experts from the National Center for the Supervision and Prevention of Diseases to investigate. They found a number of quality discrepancies and reported them to the Syunik Provincial Government. As a result, the Syunik Governor formed a committee in December to conduct laboratory tests on the patients who contracted hepatitis C, including taking blood samples of hospital staff they came in contact with.
Last year, 192 people received surgical procedures at the Kajaran Medical Center. The health ministry says that testing was done on the blood of 98 – 71 patients and 27 staff. 16 were diagnosed with hepatitis C. Nine of the sixteen, all surgical patients, were found to have acute hepatitis C; the other seven with the chronic variety. One of the seven was a hospital employee.
The results were passed on to Armenia’s Investigative Committee.
In the meantime, the health ministry launched administrative proceedings that led to Virab Manasyan, temporary director of the Kajaran Medical Center, being disciplined.
(Manasyan was filling in for then director Vardan Avagyan who was in Moscow for retraining)
In January of this year, the Investigative Committee launched a criminal charges based on Article 277 (Breach of sanitation and epidemic regulations)and Article 279 (Manufacture or sale of goods, or performing work, or providing services which do not meet safety requirement.) of Armenia’s Criminal Code.
For a long time, no one specific was charged or suspected of violating these laws.
In response to a Hetq inquiry in April, the Investigative Committee said that Yervand Avagyan (a former anesthesiologist) has been interrogated a number of times as a witness, and that after being dismissed as director, Vardan Avagyan left Armenia and was never questioned.
As noted above, Avagyan was in Moscow for retraining from September to November and then on unpaid vacation from November 24 until December 8. On December 10, Avagyan telephoned Manasyan to say that he was sick and couldn’t come to work. On January 29, 2015, Avagyan resigned as director of the Kajaran Medical Center.
As of now, Vardan Avagyan, Yervand Avagyan, Virab Manasyan and nurses Armeda Vanesyan and Nora Karapetyan have all been charged based on Article 277 Point 2 of the Criminal Code: Breach of sanitation and epidemic regulations, the same action which negligently caused heavy damage to health or human death.
The Investigative Committee claims that the Kajaran Medical Center, in order to save money, reused artificial breathing tubes several times when they should have been discarded after being used just once.
The Committee found that the hospital used just 7 disposable breathing tubes (per unit market price 300 drams/63 cents) for all 196 surgeries in 2014.
Other medical equipment, like the laryngoscope, was not properly cleaned.
The maximum sentence is five years imprisonment.
The accused are free while awaiting trial after having signed an affidavit not to flee the country.
Hovik Davtyan has been named the temporary director of the Kajaran Medical Center.