Two days after a resident doctor at Hindu Rao Hospital was sacked over allegations that he had “diverted” PPE kits, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan intervened, asking North Delhi Municipal Corporation commissioner Varsha Joshi to reach out to the doctor and resolve the issue. Hindu Rao Hospital is the biggest hospital under the North MCD.
The doctor, Piyush Pushkar Singh, a student in the orthopaedics department, alleged he was asked to leave as he highlighted lapses and wrongdoing, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Singh is also part of the hospital’s Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA).
While Singh claimed he had distributed PPE kits and face shields to doctors after procuring them from an NGO, the hospital administration said Singh should have ideally handed over the kits to the hospital.
Vardhan tweeted: “I have just spoken to Varsha Joshi ji on the phone and asked her to call the aggrieved doctor and resolve the issue. Please wait for her action. I’m sure she will take appropriate redressal steps.” The tweet came hours after Joshi had called the doctor a “thief” on Twitter — drawing a sharp reaction from the medical fraternity. The AIIMS RDA then wrote to Vardhan, alleging bullying and intimidation by Joshi. Following Vardhan’s intervention, Joshi replied to his tweet: “Will find an appropriate solution Dr Harsh Vardhan sir.”
As news of Singh’s termination was shared on social media, leading to outcry by sections of the medical community, Joshi had responded to a tweet where someone accused her of “killing the messenger”. “The thief. If I wanted to ‘kill’ I would have started proceedings under the Act (Disaster Management Act). I still can, would you like that? Pardon, your slip is showing, to use archaic language,” she tweeted.
Soon after, the AIIMS RDA wrote to Vardhan: “We have noted incidents of bullying and threats issued on a popular social media platform by a government executive (commissioner, NDMC) via her official account. We wish to submit that such actions against healthcare workers would only demoralise them especially in a situation where there is scarcity of professionals.”On her tweet calling Singh a thief, Joshi told The Indian Express: “He stole the material, what can I do? It hardly makes me happy.” Singh shot back: “If she has called me a thief, she will have to prove it… Was any inquiry done before labelling me? It is not just about my medical career but also about how these things were said on social media.”
In the past, Singh has questioned authorities on the lack of PPE kits and poor infrastructure at the hospital. He was issued a showcause notice in March after he uploaded a video shot inside the hospital, purportedly showing leakage in the ceiling.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also waded into the row, tweeting: “Dr Piyush Pushkar Singh of Hindu Rao Hospital terminated for arranging PPEs and N-95 masks for colleagues. This is shameful and unacceptable! BJP-run North MCD won’t provide enough PPEs, Kejriwal government won’t chip in either. How will Covid19 India warriors fight?”
North MCD Mayor Avtar Singh said: “I will request the authority concerned that disciplinary issues be dealt with later as this is the time to fight the disease and ensure the morale of doctors is not dampened.”
The National Board of Examination also took cognisance and directed the hospital to cancel the termination by April 20. It said the doctor’s grievances and disciplinary proceedings against him have not been taken up before the grievance redressal committee, resulting in a serious procedural lapse. “It seems the principle of natural justice has been ignored in arriving at the decision.”It added the penalty of termination of service does not seem to be commensurate with the alleged misconduct.
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