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Dean’s transfer spurs protests by Sassoon doctors, staff

Hospital services not hampered by protests.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
April 17, 2020 9:28:32 pm
coronavirus, coronavirus news, corona latest news, covid-19, covid 19 india, corona india, coronavirus india, coronavirus india news,coronavirus in india, coronavirus in india latest news, coronavirus latest news in india, coronavirus cases, coronavirus cases in india, coronavirus india cases state wise, coronavirus cases in india state wise In a letter to State Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh, the doctors, nurses and ward boys said it was demoralising for the staff, which was working 24/7 to save lives, if the head of the institution was transferred. Epress Photo: Prashant Nadkar

Nearly 300 doctors, nurses, ward boys have signed a letter protesting the sudden transfer of Sassoon General Hospital and B J Medical College Dean, Dr. Ajay Chandanwale.

Late on Thursday, Dr. Chandanwale was directed to take charge of his additional duty as joint director, medical education and research. He was transferred after 40 deaths due to COVID-19 in Pune district in the last fortnight took place at Sassoon Hospital.

However, hospital staff, have pointed out that “Patients visit private hospitals first for treatment and when that fails, they report to Sassoon Hospital in the last stage of illness.” In their letter to State Medical Education Minister Amit Deshmukh, they said it was demoralising for the staff, which was working 24/7 to save lives, if the head of the institution was transferred.

Dr. Pramod Munde, general secretary of Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, condemned the move and termed the transfer a “baseless one”. However, he added that the staff had not planned a strike and hospital services “have not been hampered”.

While Dr. S Shintre has been given charge as acting dean of the college, there was visible discontent among the faculty and resident doctors about the sudden transfer. “The load on the government hospital is tremendous. Most private hospitals and even corporation-run ones are directing their patients to Sassoon, which also has a dedicated COVID-19 facility. So even deliveries that can be conducted at a municipal nursing home is directed to Sassoon as the doctors fear that the patient has COVID-19 symptoms,” said a resident doctor with the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors.

Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar is the overall administrator while Dr. Subhash Salunkhe, who is the chairman of the state Technical Committee to prevent Communicable Diseases, has been given the charge of advising Sassoon General Hospital doctors on COVID-19. Dr. T P Lahane, director of Medical Education and Research (DMER), said he will guide the administration.

The faculty at Sassoon Hospital, who are also members of the Maharashtra State Medical Teachers Association (MSMTA), claimed that the issue has been politicised. “We have raised objections to the humiliating manner in which the dean was transferred, based on a couple of complaints, especially at a crucial time during the pandemic,” teachers with MSMTA told The Indian Express.

Officials, however, admitted that an increasing perception had gained ground that there were few chances of survival for COVID -19 patients at Sassoon Hospital.

While addressing several meetings with the staff, Dr. Salunkhe said,“There is a need to build confidence among people that proper treatment is being provided here.”

Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar is likely to visit the hospital on Saturday and take stock of the situation.

Transfer not a punitive measure: District collector

Amid protests against the transfer of Dean Dr. Ajay Chandanwale, both Pune Divisional Commissioner Deepak Mhaisekar and District Collector Naval Kishore Ram held a series of meetings with staff of Sassoon Hospital and addressed their grievances.

The transfer should not be viewed as punitive action against Chandanwale, Ram told The Indian Express. “The death rates are high and it is appropriate when the government decides to check if a change in management can help. This is not an action against doctors and we have given our full support to Sassoon Hospital and the team,” he said.

He admitted that Sassoon General Hospital was overburdened with various critically ill patients. “We have roped in private hospital doctors to try to reduce their load,” said Ram.

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