Former health minister and senior BJP leader Laxmi Kanta Chawla has criticised the state government, particularly the health department, for indulging in "reckless and unplanned" transfer of doctors at the behest of political leaders.
"A policy of transfers based on the recommendations of ruling party leaders seems to have taken root in the administrative set-up of the state," she said in a hard-hitting statement here on Saturday.
Going back to the year 2007 when she became the health minister, Chawla claimed that at that time there were six gynaecologists posted at the civil hospital in Mohali, but in five other district-level hospitals in the state, there was not a single gynaecologist.
"Immediately additional or surplus gynaecologists from Mohali were pulled out and posted in other districts where vacancies existed. No pressure from any quarter was tolerated while posting out these doctors from Mohali," she said.
Chawla, who held the health portfolio till mid-2011, was known for not tolerating any political interference in her ministry. A large number of doctors who had never been transferred from a place of their choice were pulled out and sent to other stations, including to rural areas. A number of doctors on deputation for long periods with the UT administration of Chandigarh were recalled to their home state of Punjab during Chawla's tenure.
Referring to her tenure, she claimed that it was due to the even distribution of gynaecologists and other doctors at nearly every government hospital or health centre that the infant mortality rate and the mortality rate of mothers, before and after delivery, fell in Punjab. "Another healthy sign was that the number of deliveries in government hospitals increased manifold during my tenure as health minister," she said.
Chawla claimed that of late a lone gynecologist at the civil hospital in Fatehgarh Sahib got herself transferred to Mohali through a political leader belonging to the ruling alliance. Currently there is no gynaecologist left in Fatehgarh Sahib, while the Mohali civil hospital has more gynaecologists than the sanctioned strength, she said.
Chawla also claimed that at Mata Kaushalya hospital in Patiala, the number of anaesthetists was more that the required strength. Most of them were shifted to Patiala from nearby places, leaving these stations without an anaesthetist, she said.
Drawing the attention of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to the political interference in the transfer of doctors, the BJP leader said that if the trend continues, expectant mothers would shun government hospitals and go elsewhere for their deliveries. These vacancies could have an adverse effect on the mother and child mortality rate, which has touched an all-time low, she said.
Chawla, who did not contest the assembly polls last year, did not make any reference to the present health minister, Madan Mohan Mittal, a senior leader of her party.