Medical colleges and hospital are to deal with the suffering humanity and should be more sensitive to people's woes and sufferings but somehow the authorities of the Government Medical College and Hospital in Amritsar do not seem to imbibe these humanitarian qualities.
But what is more shocking is that this insensitive and inhuman approach by the authorities have been shown and demonstrated towards a professor-couple, who had served this institution for a very long time.
These stringent observations were made by the Punjab State Information Commission during the hearing of a complaint made by Dr Rajinder Arora, who had sought information under the Right to Information (RTI) Act on the status of bills of reimbursement of medical expenses incurred on the treatment of his wife, Dr Satya Arora, who eventually died on August 4, 2011.
He approached the commission on February 5, 2013, after he failed to get a positive reply on his RTI application to the principal information officer (PIO) in the office of the Government Medical College principal, submitted on November 21, 2012.
Pulling up the medical college authorities for their "casual attitude" in delaying the information sought and then supplying incorrect information to the complainant, state information commissioner Surinder Awasthi in his order observed, "Shockingly, nothing stirred the conscience of those concerned. Even when the complainant filed an RTI application, there was no response within the stipulated period. Practically, no clue was given to the complainant regarding the status of the reimbursement of bills and when the PIO provided the information after a lapse of more than 100 days of mandated period, the information was patently wrong."
"This is a classic case of red tapism and administrative lethargy. Even after death of Dr Satya Arora, when her husband sent application and reminders, one expects that the principal should have been pro-active and ensured early payment of dues and updated his former senior colleague of the fate of the reimbursement of the bills and his RTI application," Awasthi observed.
Awasthi also imposed a penalty of Rs. 25,000 (Rs 250 per day, subject to maximum of Rs. 25,000) on PIO Dr Surinder Pal for supplying information after 100 days as compared with the mandated period of 30 days of filing of RTI application before the medical college authorities. In the order, the commissioner observed that as the PIO had grossly erred in supplying delayed information and that too patently wrong information, hence the fine should be paid by him out of his own pocket.
While noting that there cannot be any monetary compensation for the loss or other detriment suffered by the complainant, who had undergone immense agony and discomfort for delayed and wrong information, the commission also awarded a token compensation of Rs. 2,500 to the complainant, to be paid by the respondent public authority, that is the medical college.
The Commission directed that the payment of compensation be made to the applicant before July 15, the next date of hearing, under intimation to the commission.
The complainant had sought information on bills pertaining to reimbursement of medical expenses of Rs. 3,48,886 for indoor treatment of his ailing wife at Max Hospital, New Delhi, and another totalling Rs. 1,40,000 in the same hospital. On not getting the information, he moved the state information commission.
The college principal conceded before the commission that the reimbursement sanction had been granted in July 2011 but the sanction along with original bills was "misplaced" during shifting of office records to another building on account of renovation of the administrative block. No serious efforts were allegedly made to trace the bills and their sanction, reflecting on the functioning of the principal's office.