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J&K's 'special status' now recognised at PGI

Patients from the union health minister's own state are treated special at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.

punjab Updated: May 24, 2013 23:34 IST

Patients from the union health minister's own state are treated special at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh.

While others remain in queue for months, the patients from Ghulam Nabi Azad's Jammu and Kashmir are served first. Papers available with HT suggest that recently Azad ordered PGI director Dr YK Chawla to provide some patients from Jammu "hassle-free" treatment.

In March, Rotary International organised a 10-day medical camp at Udhampur near Jammu. Doctors from the institute examined patients over there and referred 193 to the PGI. Most required treatment for heart ailments, eye trouble and orthopedic problems. On the direction of the health minister, the PGI formed a special committee to give preferential treatment to this group.

The director himself leads the special committee. In a meeting on April 7 (HT has the copy of its proceedings), the director said: "The honourable health minister desires that these patients be treated at the PGI free of cost and without any hassle."

Giving practical shape to the minister's "desires", the director even appointed an additional professor, Dr Bikash Medhi, nodal officer of the programme. He was assigned to "coordinate with different departments for the treatment of these patients and declare them poor". A special treatment plan was drawn for the patients, which rarely happen in case of patients from any other state.

At the PGI, where doctors examine 18-lakh patients a year, the office of medical superintendent is required to inform patients on telephone when the Jammu unit of Rotary International puts their names on a list. The medical superintendent has orders to ensure that these names are passed to the nodal officer of the programme.

Various head of the departments, who also are on the committee, also have their orders to examine and treat these patients promptly. "The money for the treatment will come from the National Illness Assistance Fund (NIAF)." The PGI track record of spending from the NIAF remains poor otherwise.

The institute's consistent failure to use up the fund led to continuous decline in its allocation. There is no excuse for it when the hospital gets many patients who need financial support in treatment.

In the meeting, the director also made it clear to his team that the institute was to accommodate all patients from Jammu and Kashmir in the hospital's serais. The departments concerned will be sent the names in advance.

Doctors at the institute resent that one state was more equal than others. "The people referred from the Punjab government's mega health camps are treated like any other patient," said a senior professor in a clinical department, who wished not to be named, for obvious reasons.

To facilitate the patients from Jammu and Kashmir, the health minister had appointed Yogesh Sawhney, former minister from the state, his officer on special duty to the PGI. He was given a personal assistant, office, and salary on par with the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers.

Azad, who is also president of the PGI's governing body, has political ambitions in Jammu and Kashmir, where he has served as chief minister. Manju Wadwalkar, spokesperson of the institute, refuted the discrimination charge, saying it was the PGI's duty to treat all patients referred to it.

All calls to minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on his landline number and OSD Yogesh Sawhney went unanswered.

First Published: May 24, 2013 23:32 IST