Faridkot: The three-storeyed Guru Gobind Singh Medical College & Hospital, where a video was shot of the Vice-Chancellor being made to lie down on a dirty bed, has now become the talk of the town.
The V-C, Dr Raj Bahadur, has since resigned after state health minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra asked him to lie down on a hospital bed strewn with fungus to ‘understand how it feels as a patient’.
ThePrint has learnt that hospital authorities had received specific instructions two days before health minister Jouramajra’s inspection — to clean the premises and add more beds.
Sources from within the hospital said that “preparations to clean up several dirty corners of the premises had begun two days before the minister’s visit”.
Further, eyewitnesses criticised the manner in which the Punjab health minister – accompanied by his supporters – strode into the hospital’s maternity ward, startling the patients.
Those present inside the ward at the time confirmed that Jouramajra entered the ward, where pregnant women are treated, without even removing his shoes and in the absence of any women officials.
Health experts who spoke to ThePrint also pointed out that the V-C has no role to play in the chain of command, adding that it is mainly the medical superintendent and the principal who are responsible for disbursement of funds.
Sources close to the former V-C further revealed that Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann dialled him Saturday morning to apologise for Jouramajra’s actions.
However, the chief minister failed to convince Dr Raj Bahadur – who was granted a three-year extension as V-C of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences in December 2020, his second extension since 2017 – to reconsider his decision to step down.
Guru Gobind Singh Medical College & Hospital is a constituent college of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences.
‘Extra beds were laid, mattresses changed’
Kuldeep Singh, 60, told ThePrint that hospital authorities added more beds and laid down new mattresses in the surgical ward ahead of the health minister’s visit.
“I am here for my son’s treatment and we have all been here for almost a week. Suddenly, before the minister’s visit, three beds were added to the ward and mattresses were changed. The minister came to our ward in a hurry and left without speaking to any of us here,” Singh said.
Asked about the condition of the hospital and the treatment of patients by staff, Kuldeep Singh said the “doctors are nice and the staff is helpful”.
“The number of people who come here every day is a lot and they have to cater to many. So we understand if they are not particularly friendly. But just like most government hospitals, basic cleanliness is lacking but we don’t have complaints regarding the treatment,” he added.
Narrating similar accounts, patients and their attendants in other wards said they too, found the cleaning staff scrubbing the premises ahead of the health minister’s visit.
A member of the cleaning staff, who did not wish to be identified, told ThePrint that orders had been issued to clean areas marked by a strong stench, especially spots near the washrooms.
One patient who gave birth last week at the maternity ward said she had “no complaints with the doctor or the treatment”.
“But we saw extra beds being laid and mattresses changed on several beds before the minister’s visit,” the patient added.
However, her family members were not too happy with the manner in which the minister – accompanied by his ‘all-male’ entourage – marched inside the ward.
“They walked in suddenly, startling many women in the ward. They did not remove their shoes nor did they realise that it may be extremely uncomfortable for women inside to see close to 10 men barge inside an all-women post-natal ward,” said the 65-year-old mother of the patient mentioned above.
The mother added, “They had no woman accompanying them either. This was a little uncalled for, there is a way one must conduct themselves inside a hospital, especially in critical wards. You cannot shout at the top of your voice and keep showering orders to staff members who are already overworked.”
Viral video of V-C on dirty bed
On Friday, accompanied by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, Punjab health minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra reached the Guru Gobind Singh Medical College & Hospital in Faridkot for an “inspection”.
According to some members of the hospital staff, the minister arrived around 2 pm and left only around 6 pm after he had visited every single ward.
The skin ward, which houses mostly burn patients and prisoners receiving treatment, is where Jouramajra asked Dr Raj Bahadur to lie down on one of the beds.
As he was entering the skin ward, Jouramajra tried asking hospital authorities to explain the deplorable conditions of mattresses laid out for patients. The minister then put his left hand on V-C Raj Bahadur’s shoulders and asked the latter to lie down on one of the beds to be able to ‘understand how it feels’ as a patient.
The mattress on the bed in question was half-burnt and full of fungal patches.
Jouramajra’s supporters, including AAP MLA Amalok Singh, were seen egging him on and criticising the condition of the mattresses, among other issues.
#WATCH | Faridkot: Punjab Health Min Chetan Singh Jouramajra visited Guru Gobind Singh Medical hospital & took stock of infrastructure & arrangements. He also inspected mattresses being used for patients & made Vice-Chancellor lie down on the same upon seeing their poor condition pic.twitter.com/KVaxJ0oS2D
— ANI (@ANI) July 29, 2022
“Everything was happening so fast, it was as though they wanted to find out who to point fingers at immediately since many were recording this on camera,” said an eyewitness to the incident.
“None of the other hospital authorities intervened during the incident and the minister kept saying to the V-C that everything was in his hands. He then asked someone to take him to the store room to find out how many other fresh mattresses were kept, if at all they were.”
‘V-C is not responsible’
According to health experts familiar with state-run hospitals, the Vice Chancellor is not entirely responsible for such lapses since all matters pertaining to funds are directly handled by the hospital’s medical superintendent and Principal.
Former president of the Punjab Medical Council (2014-2018), Dr G.S. Grewal explained, “There is a purchase committee that every establishment has and it comprises the medical superintendent and the Principal along with a few heads of departments and nursing in-charges.
“It is a cumbersome process but the V-C does not have a role in the upkeep of the hospital. The committee decides on specific requirements and they send tenders and quotations to the health department.”
Dr Grewal added that he has known Dr Raj Bahadur since their college days.
“We are batchmates and I know that he did not deserve the treatment meted out to him. It was absolutely unfair and uncalled for. This is a deliberate attempt to disrespect a renowned surgeon. He is an upright doctor and an administrator and since he is so outspoken many people are unhappy with him,” he said.
The medical fraternity at large has taken a similar stand on the incident.
In a statement released Friday, the Punjab civil medical association said that the manner in which the minister treated the V-C was “unceremonious” and that the “escapist attitude of the government is truly uncalled for”.
The Indian Medical Association (IMA), too, released a statement asking Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to issue a public apology and sack health minister Jouramajra for his “misbehaviour”.
(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)