New Delhi: A cancer hospital in Meerut is facing heat for an ad it published Friday, in which it directed Muslim patients to seek treatment at its facility only if they’ve tested negative for Covid-19. Furthermore, it also mandated that Muslim patients should be accompanied by a caretaker who has also tested negative for the highly infectious disease.
The ad resulted in several complaints of discrimination and a warning from the district administration to the hospital to roll back the new rule or risk losing its medical license.
“For the purpose of maintaining the security of the hospital staff and patients, the hospital requests all new Muslim patients that they and one caretaker with them get tested for Covid-19 and come to the hospital only if their reports are negative.”
Valentis Cancer Hospital had posted the advertisement in the daily Dainik Jagran, and claimed that several Muslim patients had not followed the rules and regulations, such as using a mask and maintaining cleanliness, and misbehaved with staff.
While it explicitly said all Muslims will have to produce their negative test results, the ad also listed out a few exemptions.
“The rule does not apply to doctors, paramedical staff, judges, police officers as well as those Muslims who do not live in areas with high Muslim population,” it stated.
As complaints came in, the hospital maintained that the advertisement was not discriminatory, but later issued an apology.
“We just appealed to all people of the country to support our health officers and administration and not create problems as that would be dangerous for everyone,” Dr Amit Jain, an oncologist who is part of the hospital management team, told ThePrint.
“Seventy per cent of our patients are Muslims, thousands of Muslims in the past have been cured of cancer in our hospital. Some people are just creating false propaganda,” he added.
However, when asked about the phrasing of the advertisement and how it singled out one community, Dr Jain said, “Some words were twisted and may have been written incorrectly.”
“We just meant to say that people who are in hotspots should get screened,” he added.
The advertisement had cited the cases that emerged in various parts of the country which were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation that took place in Delhi last month. As authorities worked to trace all the attendees of the congregation and quarantine them, there were reports of some people misbehaving with health workers.
“Them repeatedly not following the guidelines, not being cautious, troubling the hospital staff, only shows their ill-intention,” the ad said.
It further said the actions of a few Muslims was resulting in the community having to endure some hardships.
“It is due to the ignorance and ill-intention of some Muslim brothers that all Muslim brothers will have to suffer for some time. But this is important in larger public interest and also in the interest of Muslim brothers,” the advertisement stated.
The ad also referenced “wealthy Hindus/Jains among whom many are miserly” as it appealed to people to donate to the PM-CARES relief fund, set up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to raise money for the country’s Covid-19 efforts.
Adding insult to injury
Valentis published an apology Saturday, but only added more fuel to the fire by stating that it didn’t mean to hurt Hindu and Jain sentiments. It, however, did not address the issue of separate rules for Muslim patients nor did it clarify if it was in effect.
“Some people of the Hindu and Jain faith have been hurt due to our notice yesterday. A wrong message was sent and we regret it and ask for forgiveness,” the apology read.
It also said, “If any Hindu/Muslim/Sikh/Christian was hurt because of our advertisement, we apologise.”
“It was supposed to be a more general appeal to everyone to not be miserly at this point and donate generously,” Dr Jain said, adding that the “apology was for everyone”.
Police register FIR
Meerut’s Medical administration said it would take strict action against the hospital if it did not apologise and roll back its new patient rule soon.
“We have issued a notice to them today (Sunday). If they don’t tender an apology in the next three days, we will revoke their license. They need to explicitly take back the ruling. No such language and discrimination is allowed in our country,” Raj Kumar, Chief Medical Officer, Meerut district administration, told ThePrint.
The Valentis Hospital ad had also stated that in cases of an emergency, Muslims will be admitted to the hospital but the samples of the patient and the caretaker will be mandatorily collected and screened at the patient’s expense. Each Covid-19 test costs Rs 4,500.
The Incholi Police station, under whose jurisdiction the hospital falls, has registered an FIR on the Meerut Police’s orders.
उपरोक्त प्रकरण के सम्बन्ध में थाना प्रभारी इन्चौली को आवश्यक कार्यवाही हेतु निर्देशित किया गया ।
— MEERUT POLICE (@meerutpolice) April 18, 2020
Brijesh Kumar Singh, the station house officer (SHO) of the Incholi Police station, said the hospital administration had been booked and an investigation is ongoing.
“We have registered an FIR against them under IPC Section 188 (Disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant), Section 295 (insult to religion), and Section 505-3 (Statements to incite a community),” Singh told ThePrint.
While Singh said the police would try and conclude the inquiry soon, he noted “there is no timeline and deadline for such investigations”.