Exclusive: Ahmedabad: Doctors, Equipment and Beds From Existing Subsidised Hospitals Shifted To Private Rates-charging New Hospital Being Inaugurated by PM Modi
Trustees of the charitable hospitals allege that the BJP-ruled AMC is undermining affordable hospitals, and have moved Gujarat HC.
Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (SVP Hospital), the super speciality hospital to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, January 17 in Ahmedabad, Gujarat is embroiled in a major controversy. Two trustees of the city’s Sheth Vadilal Sarabhai Hospital (VS Hospital) and Chinai Prasuti Gruh (Chinai Maternity Home) have moved a Special Civil Application in the Gujarat High Court against the decision of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) to transfer beds from VS Hospital to the new healthcare facility without their consent. The trustees also allege that the AMC is undermining medical services in the existing hospitals where patients can avail affordable treatment and rendering them redundant in an attempt to promote the new hospital which is separated from VS Hospital by a wall and will not be run by the trustees of the old hospitals.
VS Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home, founded in 1931 with monetary donations from the Chinai family and Vadilal Sarabhai, are administered by a common board. While both hospitals offer services at a nominal price to the economically backward sections, the new AMC-run hospital will charge as per private hospital rates.
“The AMC-MET has moved a resolution to transfer specialist doctors, equipments and 700 beds to the new multi-speciality hospital. The AMC corporators passed the resolution on December 14, 2018 in a board meeting,” Brijesh Chinai, one of the petitioners in the case and board member, told News Central24x7.
“The decision was taken in spite of the fact that we opposed the move. We met the Deputy Municipal Commissioner Kuldeep Arya on December 15, 2018 and sought his answers on issues like financing of the hospitals, the source of funding, the future of our staff, equipment and services. We did not get get any valid answer. We were told to attend another meeting on December 17, 2018 which we boycotted because we strongly felt that a gun is being held at our head and our compliance is being forced, with or without our assent,” board member Jay A Sheth told News Central24x7.
As per the trust deeds, both the existing hospitals are independent public charitable institutions and do not come under the administration of the AMC. The AMC however, is required to provided the finances for running and maintaining these hospitals in perpetuity, using tax-payers’ funds. The administration is managed by the board members. “The composition of the Board was changed a few times over the years, however, the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP)-ruled AMC ousted the opposition member from the Board and replaced him with a fifth ruling party corporator. Thereafter, the BJP has passed all resolutions using the brute majority of one,” Dr Nishit Shah, board member and senior arthroscopic surgeon of VS Hospital told News Central24x7.
To understand the resentment among the doctors and board members associated with the existing hospitals, three things have to be considered: 1) Purpose behind establishing VS Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home, 2) Functioning of AMC and AMC-MET(AMC Medical Education Trust), the body which took the decision to use facilities of old hospitals for the new one, 3) Can patients belonging to the economically weaker sections avail free or highly subsidised rates for services in the new hospital?
VS Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home
VS Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home were founded as per the trust deeds drafted in 1929 by the then municipal president Sardar Vallabhai Patel. Both the hospitals are required to provide free or highly subsidised rates for services to the poor or middle income people, as per the Trust Deeds.
“The total beds, including the beds in the trauma centre are 1155. We exist in the centre of Ahmedabad city and provide the best medical services to the economically weaker sections for free or nominal rate. Our indoor patients department remains very busy,” Dr Shah said.
Now, the trustees are protesting as the beds of the existing hospitals will be reduced to around 500 from 1155, doctors and other facilities will also be shifted to the new hospital. They allege that the poor patients will suffer due to this move. “The issue has not been satisfactorily or sufficiently addressed. We boycotted the board meeting on January 10 as a mark of protest,” Sheth said.
Similarly, board member Rupa Chinai also vehemently opposed the move. “I have not been party to any compromise formulae on the bartering of beds. The AMC Corporators on the Board have never sought to sit down with us and discuss the issue. The donor family members do not have the mandate to barter away the assets of the VS and Chinai Trusts to any other entity. This has to now be decided in the court,” she said.
BJP-ruled AMC ousts opposition member from board, passes resolutions with ‘brute majority’
Till 1961, the administration of both hospitals was managed by a Board of nine members – four from the AMC, four from the original donor families and a doctor who was there in an advisory capacity without voting right.
In 1961, the Board agreed to incorporate one additional AMC corporator and according to a letter written to the donor family representatives by then Mayor and Chairperson Jaikrishna Harivallabhdas, he was to be a representative of the party in opposition in the AMC.
However, the setup was changed in 2012 when the BJP-ruled AMC ousted the opposition member from the Board and replaced him with a fifth ruling party corporator. “Since 2012, the BJP has passed all Resolutions using the brute majority. Any attempt to bifurcate the assets of the VS and Chinai Board of Management is a major issue that requires the full assent of the entire Board and undergo a legal process with the Charity Commissioner, as per the Bombay Public Trust Act, 1950,” Sheth said.
In 2008, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation created the AMC-MET, a stamp paper trust. The AMC-MET started with a corpus of Rs.1,500. Its Board constitutes ruling party politicians and bureaucrats as also the leader of the party in opposition. The board members claim that the AMC-MET bludgeoned itself into the affairs of the independently managed Sarabhai General and Chinai Maternity Hospital Board of Management, bringing “administrative chaos”. “The AMC-MET now handles all supply tenders and appointments for the VS and Chinai Hospitals. However, any move to barter away space or resources of an existing Trust to an extraneous Trust such as AMC-MET is deemed illegal as per the provisions of the Bombay Public Trust Act, unless it has the sanction of the full Board and there is a legal process to be first adhered to,” Brijesh Chinai said.
A swanky new hospital that the poor won’t be able to afford
The 17-floor, helipad-equipped SVP Hospital is reportedly built at a cost of Rs 528 crore. The 1,500-bed hospital will start operating from January 18 with 300 beds, reports suggest.
The trustees of VS Hospital and Chinai Maternity Home have alleged that the “AMC’s goal is clearly to hand over the new hospital to a private agency, after its inauguration by Prime Minister Modi.”
The trustees underline that the AMC is not committed to running the new hospital as a public institution as it has not provided any information in writing “through a legally certified document and hospital management plan”. “The AMC, which is now BJP-ruled, should provide a detailed policy on services, charges and the criterion by which the beneficiary patients are to be identified. This information needs to be made public on a notice board within the hospital premises,” Brijesh Chinai said.
He added, “The stated policy of the Modi-led BJP government is disinvestment in public health and education which erodes public confidence in the survival of public institutions. Should public funds be used to create infrastructure for the for-profit private sector? This should be a question for widespread public debate and national consensus.”
Deputy municipal commissioner Kuldeep Arya told The Indian Express that there are plans to dismantle part of the old VS Hospital. He negated the claim that the new hospital will be private, saying, “Although we are following the tariff structure as in private hospitals, this can’t be called a move towards privatisation as AMC will continue to run the hospital.”
The trustees of the existing hospitals, however, are not willing to buy the AMC’s argument of not privatising the new hospital. They are waiting for the next HC hearing on January 19, 2019 on the issue.
“It is clear to us that they intend to hand over this hospital to a private group and run it on a commercial basis, while cutting the oxygen flow to the VS General and Chinai Maternity Hospitals and ensuring their death.
We feel extremely sorry for the poor citizens of Ahmedabad and the staff of VS Hospital who are at the receiving end of this BJP led misadventure,” Sheth said.