Government Medical College (GMC) Amritsar is catering to Covid-19 patients from eight districts of Punjab since the outbreak. Dr Shivcharan, also former head of the medicine department, was at the helm of affairs until he was transferred to Patiala on July 1, the same day GMC principal Sujata Sharma and vice-principal Veena Valecha were removed in “public interest”.
Removal of Sujata Sharma and Veena Sachdeva was linked to a letter from Deputy Secretary, MPLADS, Raj Krishan Bhoria, to the principal secretary of the Punjab State Planning Board, citing a “delay” in the investigation into allegations of a scam purchase of PPE kits.
Dr Shivcharan was among those who had pointed out faulty PPE kits and hence his transfer came as surprise for many. However, on July 11, he was suspended.
The suspension came days after Dr Shivcharan secured a stay on his transfer to Patiala on the basis of a transfer policy against transfer of any employee who has less than six months of service left.
The suspension letter says he was suspended because he didn’t perform jobs related to Covid-19 with sincerity and showed negligence in carrying out official responsibilities.
“He didn’t take the required steps to deploy senior resident doctors and assistant professor in Covid-19 ward to control the increasing deaths. He also couldn’t give a satisfactory reply to the showcause notice issued to him on April 18 under the Pandemic Disease Act. It was an act of indiscipline. So he is suspended from the post,” read the suspension letter signed by D K Tiwari, chief secretary, medical education and research department, Punjab.
The same department has not yet taken any direct action against anyone in connection with the alleged PPE kits scam.
In a letter to then college principal Sujata Sharma, dated April 21, Dr Shivcharan had written: “It is informed that PPE being supplied to the residents/faculty/other paramedical employees attending patient in the high risk zone does not cover the whole body. The body cover/gown does not cover the whole body and the wearer of the PPE is not fully protected. Also, there is no N-95 mask in this kit and there are no full shoe covers. This is for your information and necessary action please.”
Congress leader and Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla had asked the district administration to probe these allegations on April 24.
However, the probe kept getting delayed and the MP then wrote to the Union government.
Meanwhile, a tussle between principal Sujata Sharma and Dr Shivcharan had also come to fore in mid-May.
In a letter, the principal had warned doctors and staff that in case they don’t wear PPEs, they will not be entitled for benefits under the Accidental Loss of Life Due to COVID-19 Related Duty Scheme.
In his response to the principal, Dr Shivcharan wrote on May 18, “Doctors and staff of medicine department have been working tirelessly to fight Covid-19 and giving their services. They have been fighting at the forefront against this pandemic…You have also written about accidental policy and it has also disappointed the doctors and the staff. Being head of the institute, you should make efforts to boost morale of staff instead of hurting it.”
“There was no hurry to suspend Dr Shivcharan. He is probably the only doctor in Punjab suspended for negligence in Covid-19 duty. One one side Medical Science and Research Minister O P Soni is making repeated claims that GMC has done a great job in fight against Covid-19. Then how can you suspend an officer who was nodal Covid-19 officer for four months before his transfer followed by suspension?” asked a GMC official.
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