VS General and Chinai Maternity Hospitals, built for helping the poor, are riddled with callousness and maladministration

vsOne of Gujarat’s oldest and biggest hospitals, VS General Hospital and Chinai Maternity Hospital attached with it, are in the midst of acute crisis. Run by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation’s (AMC’s) Medical Education Trust (MET), serious questions have been raised about their working by independent members of their board, VF Shah, Jai Sheth, Brijesh Chinai, and Rupa Chinai. This what they say in a statement:

We, the four independent members of Chinai Maternity and VS General Hospitals, Board of Management, representing the original donor families, wish to register our deep concern about a spate of reports appearing in the Ahmedabad newspapers referring to specific instances of maladministration, nepotism and corruption in the VS General and Chinai Maternity Hospitals. (Divya Bhaskar, January 3 and 5, 2015; Sandesh, January 5, 2015; Gujarat Samachar January 5, 2015; the written complaint of JT Vohra, dated January 5, 2015). As a matter of public accountability, the Chairperson of the VS Board must issue a written statement clarifying what action is being initiated on the following issues that are being raised in the public domain, as also by the independent members of the VS Board of Management since October 2012:

(1) Despite the outbreak of two fires in the hospital in recent times, which have seriously endangered the lives of patients and staff, no action is being initiated to check the electrical wiring or to overhaul the system. When we took up this matter at the Board meeting of January 10, 2015, the co-opted member shockingly argued that the upgrading of electrical wiring could not be done because of the dilapidated condition of the hospital buildings. This is a specious argument that is not backed by the assessment of any professional firm. It seeks to build a case for demolition/relegation of the existing VS and Chinai hospital buildings and to provide FSI for the super-speciality hospital building currently under construction without any of the pre-requisite permits (Ahmedabad Mirror, September 1, 2014). We demand that repair and restoration of the entire electrical systems in the hospitals be urgently initiated on a war footing.

(2) We have repeatedly opposed the ill-conceived AMC-inspired action of involving an extraneous body — the Medical Education Trust (MET) — in the administration of the VS Hospitals and warned of the adverse consequences such interference has in the administration of the hospitals. MET has taken over appointment of key administration positions such as that of the Medical Superintendent (MS) and his deputy. When the recent January 2015 fire broke out, the present MS, Dr Malhan, was on long leave in the US, without permission of the VS Board. The Deputy Superintendent, Dr. Rajesh Shah, was transferred to Shardaben Hospital, without knowledge of the Board. Meanwhile, one Dr Pankaj Patel has declared himself to be MS and gone on to appoint a Deputy, without any reference to the VS Board. It is reported that not a single senior official was present at the hospital when the fire occurred. This is the unaccountable and dangerous state of affairs ongoing in the hospital that seriously jeopardises patient safety and hospital functioning.

(3) We are deeply disturbed by the role of Dr Pankaj Patel in the affairs of VS Hospital. It seems he is operating as a ‘fixer’ at VS Hospital and coordinator between MET and AMC. We do not recognise him and strongly objects to his presence at the meetings of the independent VS Board of Management. The AMC-MET as also the VS Board Chairperson must clarify why he is being specifically favoured with six key posts at VS Hospital and its affiliated institutions? Who has endorsed these positions and why is so much power being vested in one individual? The following appointments are under the jurisdiction of the VS Hosutak Board of Management and need to be restored to it immediately:

  • VS Hospital Medical Superintendent;

  • The VS Hospital Deputy Medical Superintendent;

  • VS Hospitalospital Heads of Departments and all medical and non-medical staff;

  • Director, Medical Research Foundation; and

  • Director, KM School of Post-Graduate Medicine and Research.

(4) An inquiry needs to be immediately launched into the following two cases that are also highlighted in the newspaper articles:

— The patient receipt book scandal: Who has recommended/appointed the outsourcing agency, that falsely recorded and manipulated records related to payments made by patients to the hospital? What is the nature of the criminal complaint filed with the police on both counts? Why does this outsourcing agency continue to function at our hospital? Why is the investigation and action file on this matter sitting on the desk of the AMC Commissioner for months on end? Why was the matter referred to that office, which has no role in the administration of the independently managed VS Hospital? This case needs to be decided by the VS Hospital Board of Management and the role of Dr Pankaj Patel in bringing in and protecting this outsourcing agency needs to be investigated.

— Questions related to cadavers donated to public institutions and their sale to private MNCs: An independent body of professional experts must be appointed to examine the creation of the cadaver programme initiated by NHL College whose Dean is Dr Pankaj Patel. This expert committee with a time-bound mandate, must make its recommendations, keeping in mind the needs of public institutions. It must explain and justify why cadavers donated for a public cause through a public institution are being sold to private MNCs for profit; whether the needs of public teaching institutions are being first met and what needs to be done to upgrade their facilities. These findings and recommendations must first be made public and debated with total transparency, before any initiative related to a cadaver programme — a highly sensitive public issue — is undertaken.

(5) The Information Commissioner has ordered that the VS Hospital website be online within 90 days. This must clearly state the names and contact numbers of responsible hospital officials and must provide scope for patients to publicly make their complaint against any malpractice or negligence they may encounter. The hospital’s response should also be publicly stated in the interest of transparency and accountability. We wish to make amply clear that all these lapses have taken place since the AMC sponsored Medical Education Trust has assumed to take over the management of the VS Hospitals. It was the Chairperson and the AMC Corporators from the BJP on the VS Hospital Board of Management who, in 2012, using brute majority, were party to illegally bifurcating the VS Board and reducing its jurisdiction to 120 beds, while handing over the balance of the 1,155 beds into the control of MET. These actions were opposed tooth and nail by half the VS Board members, consisting of the independent members representing the donor families. Our complaint is pending for the past nine months in the court of the Charity Commissioner where the Board Chairperson and others have not even bothered to file a reply.

Such shameful incidents have never occurred in the past 85 years of this hospital’s existence, when its administration was managed by the independent VS Hospital Board of Management — a unique partnership between government and citizens, conceived by Sardar Patel and Dadasaheb Mavalankar in 1930.

While the BJP, which rules the AMC, speaks of “service to the poorest” and seeks public donations, its utter hypocrisy is exposed in the manner in which its representatives are running to the ground these hospitals, which are the only bastions of service available to the poorest of the city. It is now imperative that MET which is completely mismanaging the VS Hospitals, be divested of all powers and removed from the management of the VS Hospitals and that all 1,155 beds and control of administration should be immediately restored to the VS Board of Management.

Comment on the Budget Provisions of VS and Chinai Maternity Hospitals:

After looking through draft copy of the budget we the independent trustees on the VS General and Chinai Maternity Hospitals, Board of Management would like to state that the proposed draft is completely devoid of any transparency and honesty in depiction of the facts. We wonder as to how such a prestigious and valuable institution built for helping the poor is being run to the ground by such callousness and maladministration. We believe that the entire administration should be immediately changed for such poor performance.

  1. We are unable to see anywhere mentioned the number of beds that the hospital is basing its expenses on. This should be the fundamental basis on which a hospital budget is made.
  2. The Budget must provide us with the schedule of expenses amounting to Rs 106 crore. We do not find any mention of the details/particulars for this amount stated in the draft budget.
  3. In the common expenditure, item no.2 shows an expense of Rs fifteen lacs for a Medical Research Foundation. How will this amount be used? We would like to have the details of this Foundation including its activities; expenses made; exemption certificate.
  4. In the common expenses item, Nos 1-10 have figures which are hard to believe. For e.g medicine cost have been assumed at Rs 30 lacs a year for the entire hospital!The Budget must clearly mention actual costs for medicines and transfusions for patients using indoor and OPD services.
  5. The administration must provide complete details on patients who were admitted / treated by the hospitals and have used hospital facilities as outdoor patients.
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