By Santosh Jagdev
Rules, regulations and norms are clearly a dispensable commodity in the Naveen Patnaik dispensation. They are essentially meant for the ‘mango people’ and not for the ruling party bigwigs.
In flagrant violation of the rules set by the same government, Law minister Maheswar Mohanty was brought to the Kalinga Hospital in Bhubaneswar from the Puri district hospital in a 108 ambulance after he was shot thrice by two assailants near his residence in the temple town on February 21.
“The rules framed for 108 ambulances don’t allow ferrying a patient to a private hospital. It is an emergency service meant to provide prompt service during medical emergencies, provide first aid, stabilise patients and transport them to the nearest government hospital (emphasis added) as quickly as possible,” said Mishal Bhadra, a senior executive of Ziqitsa Healthcare Services, the agency that provides the service in several states including Odisha.
The services of the 108 ambulance cannot be requisitioned to carry a patient already admitted in a government hospital to a private hospital either, he made it clear.
Bhadra, however, politely declined to comment on why an exception was made in the case of the minister, Maheswar Mohanty.
In sharp contrast with the special treatment meted out to the VIP, a doctor in Apollo Hospital, who met with a serious accident on the National Highway No 5 between Cuttack and Bhubaneswar a few months ago, died simply because the 108 ambulance refused to carry him to the ‘private’ hospital where was employed citing ‘rules’.
“Since he was a doctor posted in the ICU of the hospital, he pleaded with the 108 staff to take him to the Apollo Hospital. But the 108 staff would have none of it. They took him to the SCB Medical College in Cuttack instead. In the process, precious minutes were lost. In any case, SCB lacked the necessary facilities for emergency care that are available at Apollo. No wonder the doctor succumbed to his injuries,” said Dr Pappu Meher, a former contractual doctor with Apollo now employed at the VSS Medical College Hospital in Burla.
It is easy to see that there are two sets of rules – one for the hoi polloi and another for the VIPs. But trust the Odisha government to come out with a ready explanation to justify the gross violation of rules that cost a doctor – no less – his life.
Asked about the special treatment to Mohanty, Health minister Dr Damodar Rout had this to say:
“There are 21 referral hospitals in Odisha of which Kalinga hospital is one. If the patient admitted in any government hospital wants a 108 ambulance to take him to a private hospital, he/she will be denied permission. But it is permissible if the Chief District Medical Officer/Medical Superintendent of any government hospital takes a decision to shift the patient to any of these 21 referral hospitals.”
But try telling that to this relative of the doctor who lost his life.
“These political leaders make the rules and deliberately leave a loophole that allows them to break those very rules with impunity. I would like to ask the Health minister if he expected my relative to contact the CDMO in that condition for his desperate request to be taken to Apollo to be accepted. His life could perhaps been saved if he had been shifted to Apollo without any delay. But then the life of a mere mortal, even if he is a doctor himself, is obviously not as precious as that of a minister,” said the relative of the dead doctor, who would rather not be named.
Poignant words those. And plenty of food for thought too.
[This correspondent sought to get a view on the issue from a relative of the Minister under treatment at ICU 315 of Kalinga Hospital, but was denied entry by the security personnel on duty.]