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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Monday Musings: Has Marathi manoos gained from defunct 100-bed hospital?

A classic case of public healthcare at the mercy of political goondaism in Pune is on display in Bopodi

pune Updated: Nov 26, 2018 14:35 IST

Hindustan Times, Pune
Draupadabai Murlidhar Khedekar general hospital and trauma care centre is located in Bopodi.
Draupadabai Murlidhar Khedekar general hospital and trauma care centre is located in Bopodi.(Milind Saurkar/HT Photo)
         

On November 24, this newspaper reported how a 100-bed hospital and trauma centre constructed by Pune municipal corporation (PMC) at Bopodi and run by the well-known Sahyadri hospitals group for 10 years has been lying waste for the last one year now.

The Draupadibai Murlidhar Khedekar hospital and trauma centre located on the old Pune-Mumbai highway at Bopodi began functioning under a public-private partnership (PPP) between the PMC and Sahyadri hospitals in 2008. This was a much needed facility catering to the Bopodi, Aundh road, Khadki, Dapodi and Wakdewadi localities over a radius of seven kilometres, with a high concentration of poor and lower middle class residents.

Just about a year after its launch, the hospital began facing trouble from Prakash (Bandu) Dhore, a local corporator of the Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS). The DNA of January 1, 2009, quoted Sahyadri hospital’s chairman and managing director Dr Charu Apte as saying that the Bopodi hospital was facing harassment from Dhore who is now with the BJP. Indeed, incidents of assaults on the medical staff, intimidation, harassment and vandalism of hospital property were reported by the media then. Dhore in an interview, justified his opposition to the hospital saying that it was exploitative and cheating the poor. If that was the case, he should have taken up the matter with the PMC or filed a police complaint rather than take the law in his own hands.

I recall a meeting with Dr Apte from those days when he- like Ratan Tata with the Nano plant in West Bengal- had said that he would rather close down the hospital than succumb to political goondaism and arm-twisting. One of the demands of the then MNS corporator was that Sahyadri hospital should employ people from his Bopodi ward in that hospital. Dr Apte not only refused to accept that demand but also pointed out that the parent hospital on Karve Road, was already employing more than 100 people from Bopodi. Therefore, the demand that localized employment should be done at the Bopodi hospital was unreasonable.

Tired of the frequent harassment from the local corporator, Dr Apte refused to renew the PPP agreement. Consequently, the hospital has been lying idle for the last one year, and given its violent history, the PMC has been unable to find a replacement medical staff to run the hospital.

Dr Apte described his experience as “horrific”, denounced the PMC for failing to provide adequate safety and security for the hospital operations and advised that a PPP agreement with the PMC in healthcare would be disastrous for anyone.

Who has gained and who has lost from this sordid episode? The poor Marathi manoos has lost big time. The local economy and employment in the healthcare sector has suffered. The investment in the hospital infrastructure running into a few crore of rupees from the public exchequer and tax-payers’ money has gone waste. The only person who gained is the small time corporator who moved from the smaller MNS to the larger BJP. Is this Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas? I wonder!

First Published: Nov 26, 2018 14:31 IST