Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s state unit do not seem to be on the same page over the damaged hospital mattress row that saw the resignation of the Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS)’s Vice Chancellor Dr Raj Bahadur following his “humiliation” at the hands of health minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra.
The Jouramajra-Bahadur episode is the latest in a series of rows and setbacks – such as the popular Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala’s killing following the withdrawal of his security and the AAP’s humiliating bypoll loss in CM Mann’s Sangrur parliamentary constituency to Simranjit Singh Mann – that the AAP dispensation in Punjab has suffered since March this year, when it stormed to power after sweeping the state Assembly polls.
Last Friday, during an inspection of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital (GGSMCH) in Faridkot. Jouramajra had forced Dr Bahadur to lie down on a damaged mattress at the hospital, following which the latter submitted his resignation to the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO).
Amid the ensuing outrage, CM Mann regretted the episode and called up Dr Bahadur to apologise to him, but could not persuade him to withdraw his resignation. Speaking to media persons Saturday, he said, “Such frictions keep happening at the workplace. Dr Raj Bahadur is my good friend for last many years, ever since my father suffered a spinal injury. At that time he was the principal of General Hospital, Sector 32, and PGIMER director. He is a good doctor. I feel the issue could have been handled in a better way.”
The Punjab AAP, however, took a contrary stand and went after the BFUHS V-C, even as it raked up the issue of the “abysmal state of affairs” at the GGSMCH, Faridkot.
Defending the health minister, state AAP chief spokesperson Malwinder Singh Kang said the Opposition held the CM responsible for everything. “Then how come the head of the institute is not responsible for the poor state of affairs there,” he asked.
Kang charged, “The Opposition does not raise an uproar when a poor man loses his family member due to wanting health services, when scams come to fore. If the health minister under the leadership of Chief Minister goes to ground zero then they raise questions.”
Pointing to the pictures of the GGSMCH bed on which the V-C was forced to lie down by the health minster, Kang said this was the bed at the hospital’s skin department. “You can well imagine what kind of facilities the people were getting there.”
He claimed that the minister’s intention was “not to insult anyone but to help the poor get better healthcare facilities”. “We respect Dr Bahadur. I know him personally. Minister’s intent was not to humiliate him. Our mission is only to help the poor people. Just go to the ground and find out how the patients are being mistreated.”
Even the Punjab AAP’s Twitter handle tweeted a picture of Jouramajra inspecting the grimy hospital mattress, stating “This hospital bed depicts the reality of the pathetic medical infrastructure left by Akali & Congress. Is it wrong to provide better healthcare to all citizens?”
The newly-appointed director, media relations, in the CMO, Baltej Pannu, in his Facebook post, said, “If you need treatment, then start from Faridkot and reach PGIMER, Chandigarh. And for the common man, put the ventilators in a corner at the hospital and just say that there is some technical issue. Just ask any patient in the Faridkot hospital about what happens there. The doctors should also understand that people treat them as gods on earth and they are in a noble profession. Doctors should be respected by all means because they undergo a lot of mental pressure but the patients also face it besides suffering from illnesses and yet they face harassment.”
Pannu did not name Dr Bahadur in his post but he might be hinting at the latter getting admitted to the PGIMER when he contracted Covid-19. He was also referring to news reports that the ventilators in the Faridkot hospital were not used earlier during the Covid wave.
The social media accounts belonging to the AAP camp were also abuzz with messages, which flagged the pictures of the damaged hospital beds as well as the video clips of Jauramajra with the V-C, and flayed the latter.