IN AN act that has been slammed by the Indian Medical Association (IMA) as “humiliating”, Punjab Health Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra forcibly made veteran surgeon and Vice Chancellor of Baba Farid University and Health Sciences (BFUHS) Dr Raj Bahadur lie on a damaged mattress in front of staff and patients at a hospital in Faridkot during an inspection.
A video clip of the incident shows the AAP Minister placing his left hand on 72-year-old Bahadur’s shoulder and steering him towards the bed inside the Skin and VD department of the Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital, which comes under BFUHS.
Even as the V-C is heard explaining that he was not responsible for the facilities, the Minister said: “Tuhade haath vich sab kuchh hai (Everything is in your hands).” The clip shows the V-C lying on the bed for a few seconds.
The video also shows one of the Minister’s supporters lifting the mattress to show a stained portion beneath. “Look at the mattress… it has fungal growth… burnt at many places… such a mattress is in the Skin department,” the supporter is heard saying.
Apart from being a reputed surgeon, Bahadur has an experience of more than 45 years as a teacher, researcher and administrator. Specialising in general orthopaedics surgery, orthopaedic education, spinal surgery and joint replacement, he is the former director-principal of the Govt Medical College and Hospital in Chandigarh and ex-head of Department of Orthopaedics at PGIMER, Chandigarh.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bahadur said: “I have worked in 12-13 hospitals so far but have never faced such behaviour from anyone till now. I shouldn’t have been treated this way… it affects this noble profession. It is very painful. He showed his temperament, I showed my humility.”
Asked whether new mattresses had been ordered for the hospital, he said: “Two firms sent their quotations and the rate finalisation needs to be done. It is a 1,100-bed hospital and not all mattresses are in bad condition. This mattress shouldn’t have been there but hospital management is the prerogative of the Medical Superintendent.”
The V-C is the approving authority for all purchases in government hospitals that come under BFUHS.
When contacted, Dr Shilekh Mittal, Medical Superintendent, confirmed that he was present at the spot during the incident. But he did not respond in detail to queries about the facilities and only said that “the hospital is a constituent of BFUHS”.
Speaking to reporters at the hospital, Jouramajra said: “My intention was not to do any inspection. In fact, I am visiting various hospitals to see what the requirements are so that we can fulfill them.”
However, the Minister’s action drew strong criticism from the IMA and Opposition leaders.
The Punjab branch of IMA said in a statement that it was “deeply anguished over the humiliating act” and asked the Chief Minister to “intervene and ask the Minister to apologise”. “Otherwise, the IMA will consider stern action to restore the pride and prestige of the medical fraternity,” Dr Paramjeet Singh Maan, state president of IMA, said in a statement.
The Congress chief in Punjab, Amrinder Singh Warring, demanded an apology from the Minister for his “condemnable behaviour”.
Taking to Twitter, Congress leader and former India hockey captain Pargat Singh posted: “Cheap theatrics of Aam Aadmi Party never ceases. Today the Vice Chancellor of Baba Farid Medical University Raj Bahadur Singh was publicly humiliated by the Health minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra (+2 Pass).This type of mob behaviour will only demoralise our medical staff.”
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BJP leader Sunil Jakhar tweeted: “Treatment meted out to distinguished Dr Raj Bahadur is shameful & totally unacceptable. Funds will fix health infra not uncouth behaviour. AAP should put money where their (minister’s) mouth is !” Jakhar said that Mann “should ask his minister to apologise to the medical fraternity”.
Jouramajra took over the Health Ministry after Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann sacked Vijay Singla two months ago following complaints of corruption.
During his visit on Friday, the Minister met several patients who complained of poor facilities in the hospital. He was also gheraoed by medical officers and other employees who are on strike demanding more recruitment to relieve the staff crunch. “We have called them to Chandigarh, we will listen to them in detail to understand their problems. Decisions can’t be taken on the spot,” Jouramajra said.