The public spat between the health minister and his chief parliamentary secretary has allowed the opposition to show the Punjab medical services as ailing.
The minister's restraining the CPS from doing sting operations against the government doctors in illegal private practice had exposed the state of affairs in the Punjab health department, Sunil Jakhar, leader of the Opposition, stated in a press release issued here.
'Towns at risk'
"Doctors doing private practice at the cost of their jobs in the government hospitals was why the health system missed the early warning signs of the epidemic in Batala, and dozens of lives were lost," the Congress leader said.
"The lack of doctors' involvement in health services has put many more Punjab towns at the risk of epidemic," said Jakhar. "The health minister owes an explanation to the public as to why his own CPS had to resort to sting operations to expose the malpractice. Was her personal monitoring of the situation sabotaged by the vested interest in her own ministry, which forced her to organise a sting to uncover the truth?"
The operations have led to an open discord between CPS Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu and health minister Madan Mohan Mittal, both from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). "It is common knowledge that doctors avoid serving in villages where the Centre's money under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) had helped build hospitals," said Jakhar. "The hospitals are empty for want of qualified doctors."
Crores of rupees sent under the NRHM had failed to reach the poor patients, as the field staff was not present at the hospitals, said the leader of the state opposition. "The money gets wasted, and patients are directed to the private centres of public-servant doctors."
Doctors who had managed long postings in cities should be transferred to villages that were in need of qualified teams, said Jakhar. "Already, three ministers of the Punjab government had to resign on corruption charges," he added. "The new infighting exposes the incoherence in the ruling alliance. The ugly image of the government suits the opposition but the lack of governance does not suit Punjab. The CM should look into the issue."