In what is being seen as the first action taken against any senior officer under the Odisha government’s public feedback programme Mo Sarkar, Dr Pankaj Patel, Senior Consultant (Medicine), who is serving as Chief District Medical and Public Health Officer in-charge of Sundergarh district, was suspended on Sunday.
Maintaining that there has been “some misunderstanding”, Dr Patel told The Indian Express on Monday, “I would have explained the situation to the committee. But I was not present when they collected feedback.”
Manas Mangaraj, media adviser to the state government, however, disputed this. He said, “The doctor concerned was given adequate opportunity to explain, but he could not submit a satisfactory reply.”
The notice from the Health and Family Welfare Department reached Dr Patel late on Sunday.
On Monday, the Odisha Medical Service Association, which represents government doctors, other than those serving in medical colleges, criticised the move, calling it “clear-cut injustice”.
Both the main opposition parties, the BJP and the Congress, also opposed the government’s action. While the BJP called a six-hour bandh in Sundergarh district, state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik told the media, “What the BJP is saying (is correct). Should you not even ask for a showcause notice?”
Mo Sarkar, a project of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s 5T vision, is aimed at bringing a shift in government services by proactively seeking feedback from people. As part of the programme, a team led by 5T Secretary V K Pandian is visiting state government hospitals unannounced to seek impromptu public feedback.
On Sunday, Pandian and Development Commissioner Suresh Mohapatra visited the district headquarters hospital (DHH) in Sundergarh.
Sources said they allegedly received two adverse reports. “Some patients said they were going to private clinics to conduct tests before dialysis even though the facilities are available at the hospital. Another patient and attendant said they were served only breakfast while the hospital provides three meals,” a hospital staff member said.
Citing clause (a) of sub-rule 1 of Rule 12 of Odisha Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules 1962, Patel was placed “under suspension with immediate effect”.
Dr Patel said, “Some patients prefer private clinics to get test results on serum, creatine and electrolytes because the process is faster than at DHH. No one forced them to go there.”