November 06, 2011

Bahrain jails 20 doctors after democracy protests

Bahrain jailed 20 doctors on Thursday for between five and 15 years on theft and other charges, the state news agency said, in what critics claimed was reprisal for treating protesters during unrest in the Gulf kingdom this year. A security court also sentenced a man to death for killing a policeman by driving his car over him several times and joining illegal gatherings for "terrorist goals," the BNA news agency said. Another man was handed a life term for his involvement. The doctors, who denied the charges, were among dozens of medical staff arrested during protests led by the island's Shi'ite majority demanding an end to sectarian discrimination and a greater say in government. Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers quashed the protests in March, with the help of troops from fellow Sunni neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. At least 30 people were killed, hundreds wounded and more than 1,000 detained -- mostly Shi'ites -- in the crackdown. The doctors were charged with stealing medicine, stockpiling weapons and occupying a hospital during the unrest and in addition were jailed for forcibly occupying a hospital, spreading lies and false news, withholding treatment, inciting hatred of Bahrain's rulers and calling for their overthrow. "We were shocked by the verdicts because we were expecting the doctors would be proved innocent of the crime of occupying the Salmaniya medical complex," defence lawyer Mohsen al-Alawi said, adding the hearing had lasted no more than 10 minutes. The doctors say the charges against them were invented by the authorities to punish medical staff for treating people who took part in anti-government protests. "Those doctors who have been found guilty were charged with abusing the hospital for political purposes. Nobody is above the law," a spokesman for the government's Information Affairs Authority (IAA) said. Ten of the doctors, including senior physician Ali Al-Ekri, were given 15-year terms, two were sentenced to 10 years in prison and the rest to five. "After today's verdict and those issued yesterday we feel pessimism," Alawi said, adding they would appeal against the decision. On Wednesday a military court upheld life sentences against Shi'ite opposition leaders for organising protests in a trial described as a "sham" by Amnesty International, which also called the latest proceedings a "travesty of justice." In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokesman said the United States was "deeply disturbed" by the sentencing of the doctors. "We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys and verdicts based on credible evidence," spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement. The British government voiced concern over the sentences. "These sentences appear disproportionate to the charges brought," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Thursday. "These are worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini government's moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in Bahrain." OPEN FOR DISCUSSION A senior Bahraini official said the government was still prepared to hold more talks with all opposition parties on political reforms to try to end protests that threaten to hold up the economy and scratch its business-friendly image. Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the IAA, also said Bahrain had begun receiving some of the $10 billion in economic aid promised by fellow Gulf Arab nations. "Everything is open for discussion except regime change. That doesn't mean it has to be discussed today (but) the king said reforms are not going to stop," he said. "Other issues can be brought to the table -- when and how, I'm not sure." Bahrain says it will expand parliament's powers of monitoring government ministers, recommendations that came from a national dialogue held after the U.S. ally crushed pro-democracy protests earlier this year. But Shi'ite opposition groups, headed by the Wefaq party, want the elected chamber to have real legislative power as well as a new prime minister. The current incumbent, an uncle of the king, has occupied the post since 1971. The conflict dragged in regional powers; Bahrain accused the opposition of pursuing a sectarian agenda backed by non-Arab Shi'ite giant Iran, just across Gulf waters. The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is stationed in Manama, says the government should talk to Wefaq. Link: Original Article

November 04, 2011

SMS system soon to check fake drugs

Pharma companies in the country may be asked to install an SMS-activated system to counter fake drugs in the market. Companies will need to print a unique number on medicine strips which the buyers can SMS to the customer care for verification. Recommendations of a task force report expected on Friday will make it mandatory for drug-manufacturing companies to have the software that will respond to text messages from consumers. Unique ID and bar-coding are the other options before the task force and will be weighed against SMS alerts, task force chairman HG Koshia told ET. The central government-appointed task force has representatives from various ministries and drug controlling authorities. It will hold final discussions on Friday in Gandhinagar on the way ahead in tackling the counterfeit medicines menace. "We are seriously pondering on the SMS-based system to counter the counterfeit menace in the country, says Koshia who is also the commissioner of Gujarat Food & Drug Control Administration. Globally, the counterfeit drug industry is estimated at $75 billion. No figures are available for the Indian market, but a government's response in Lok Sabha last year put the number of fake drugs at 46 per 1,000. Indian government has already mandated bar-coding of all drugs meant for exports from October 1. Indian companies faced major embarrassment in December 2009 when spurious anti-malaria drugs bearing made-in-India tag were seized in Nigeria. Later, it was discovered that the drugs originated from China and the Chinese government awarded death plenty to six traders found involved. The Task Force for Tracing and Tracking of Spurious Medicines (TF-TTSM) has been set up by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare with representations from health, commerce, law and consumer affairs ministries. Drug controllers of Karnataka and two representatives from Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) office too are in the task force which will submit its report in two months. Mr Koshia said, the task force will look at simplified approach that can assist patients inspect a drug without opening the package and verify the source or manufacturer. A handful of companies have voluntarily adopted different verification systems to overcome the spurious drug problem, he pointed out. Pharma associations however, are apprehensive of the cost burden that the new system will put on the manufacturers. KS Chhabra, honorary secretary, Indian Drug Manufacturers' Association (IDMA), Gujarat state board, said: "Prima-facie it's a right move. The government has to modernise the drug industry as per the global norms. While the big companies have the resources, those in the small and medium segment may not be able to invest in the new system immediately." Link: Original Article

November 02, 2011

XLRI launches course in healthcare management with Apollo Hospitals

XLRI Jamshedpur has joined hands with the Apollo Hospitals Group to start a one-year full time course in healthcare management. The first batch of the programme, christened Executive Diploma in General Management & Health Care, will kick-off from March next year. The course designed and developed jointly by XLRI Jamshedpur and Apollo Group will have 28 courses which will be taught in one year. Faculty members from both the institutes will conduct the programme and will entail a one-month internship in healthcare industry. "This alliance with Apollo Hospitals will provide a plethora of opportunities for those planning to pursue a career in healthcare industry. The need for professionally trained hospital managers is being increasingly felt in Indian hospitals, whether private or public," said XLRI director E. Abraham, S.J. As per a recent CII report, employment opportunity in healthcare is expected to increase by at least 2.5 million by 2012. "This program will help in creating management professionals with domain knowledge and will offer ample career opportunities in both the management and health care sector either in a business role or a functional role," said Abraham. Graduates from any recognised university and in any discipline with minimum of three years of experience after graduation can apply for this program. Aspiring candidates will have to appear for a written test, to be conducted at seven selected centres of Apollo, followed by interviews at XLRI campus. After successful completion of the program, students will be awarded certificates jointly by XLRI and Apollo Group. Incidentally, Apollo Hospitals and XLRI have also partnered to promote leadership and management education by introducing a one-year postgraduate certificate in general management for Apollo Hospital employees. Link: Original Article

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