Bhopal: The poor public health infrastructure in Madhya Pradesh has once again been exposed with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan roping in hospitals run by those accused in the Vyapam Scam to treat COVID-19 patients.
Six noteworthy hospitals with 4,250 ICU and Oxygen beds treating a majority of the COVID-19 patients in Bhopal, Indore and Dewas are being run by those accused in the Vyapam Scam.
Even the Chirayu Medical College and Hospital – the biggest COVID-19 facility in Bhopal with 1,100 beds – which has treated CM Chouhan, top bureaucrats in the state Health Department, ministers and many VIP patients over the last year is one such facility.
The state had taken over dozens of hospitals during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, including hospitals run by the Vyapam accused and paid Rs 167 crore for treating over 32,000 COVID-19 patients. While in the second wave, the state has again assumed control over a number of hospitals across the state and has been paying heavy amounts to them.
The names of Ajay Goenka, Vinod Bhandari, J.N. Chouksey, Suresh Bhadoriya and Suresh Vijayvargiya, who run major hospitals and medical colleges, cropped up in connection with admission irregularities pertaining to the Pre-Medical Test 2012 conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board or Vyapam during the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) investigation.
They were charge-sheeted by the CBI in various charges and are out on bail after spending days behind bars.
Of these six colleges, three were in Bhopal, two in Indore and one in Dewas district.
Bhopal’s Chirayu Medical College and Hospital is the last stop for the critical COVID-19 patients in the state after LN Medical College and People’s Medical College. All three medical facilities are run by Vyapam-accused Ajay Goenka, JN Chouksey and Suresh Vijayvargiya respectively. These hospitals have a capacity of 2,100 beds in all.
Indore’s Aurobindo Medical College and Hospital and Index Medical College and Hospital, both independently run by Bhandari and Bhadoriya respectively, have been treating the majority of patients in the worst-hit COVID-19 city. The BJP government in the state has taken over both these hospitals and it is said that these are the best-equipped facilities to tackle the pandemic in the Malwa region. Both the hospitals together have a capacity of 1,400 patients.
In addition, Dewas’ Amaltas Institute of Medical Sciences, owned by Bhadoriya, is the biggest COVID-19 facility in the district with 750 beds. It is the only hospital treating COVID-19 patients in the neighbouring districts.
On one hand, the state government has accused the directors of these hospitals for rigging medical examinations in multi-crore Vyapam Scam. On the other, the state has taken their hospitals under its wing and paid a hefty amount to them. It is a conflict of interest, alleged Madhya Pradesh Congress Spokesperson K.K. Mishra.
During the first wave of the pandemic, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government had taken over the Chirayu Medical College and Hospital to treat COVID-19 patients free of cost. In the second wave, the hospital opted to work independently and charge patients as per their treatment packages.
The director of the hospital, Dr. Ajay Goenka, is one of the prime accused in the Vyapam case. He had surrendered before the CBI on January 31, 2018 and was granted bail on March 8, 2018 by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. He has been out on bail and has now become a 'COVID warrior' during the pandemic.
Chouksey and Vijaywargiya too have spent months in jail and are out on bail in the ongoing Vyapam case.
In addition, Vyapam-accused Bhandari has spent 20 months in jail before he was granted bail by the Supreme Court in 2015. Dr. Bhandari was arrested in January 2014 for his alleged role in the multi-crore PMT-2012 scam. Before that he had fled to Mauritius citing health issues after his name featured among the list of the accused.
While Bhadoriya, who owns two hospitals – one in Indore and another in Dewas – is also out on bail.
“The health infrastructure of Madhya Pradesh is dependent on the hospitals run by the Vyapam accused and the COVID-19 crisis has proved it,” alleged Ashish Chaturvedi, a whistleblower in the Vyapam Scam. “As many as 16 hospitals run by the Vyapam accused or jholachap doctors were shut down in Gwalior in the one month based on my complaint,” he said.
Chaturvedi further alleged that two other such hospitals – Shri Krishna Hospital and Mansarovar Care Hospital, owned by Vyapam-accused Vivek Niranjan and Dr. Vishal Yadav – are still functional in Gwalior. “Both the hospitals are not on the list of hospitals approved by the government to treat COVID-19 patients. Yet, they continue to treat patients,” he said.
Newsclick made repeated attempts to get speak to Mohammad Suleman, Additional Chief Secretary, Health Department about the issue, but he did not respond to our messages.
Another Vyapam whistleblower, Dr. Anand Rai, alleged: “The entire health infrastructure in Madhya Pradesh is in the hands of the Vyapam accused. They have deep rooted connections with ruling BJP leaders who never tried to strengthen the public health infrastructure.”
He further pointed out that CM Chouhan, ministers and Health Department officials too have been treated in a hospital owned by prime Vyapam accused Dr. Ajay Goenka.
“A Chief Minister, who has been in the post for the last 16 years, has treated himself in a private hospital (Chirayu) owned by the Vyapam accused when he tested positive for COVID-19. From that we get a sense of how trustworthy our government hospitals are and how much he has worked to strengthen public health infrastructure,” Rai said.
Rajneesh Aggarwal, BJP spokesperson in the state, defended the government. “The law is taking its course against the Vyapam accused while the hospitals are also running as per the laid down laws of the Health Department,” he said.
As far as taking over hospitals run by the Vyapam accused was concerned, he said: “We all know that they have big health infrastructure and since it’s a health emergency, the government has to take help from everyone – from hospitals with ten beds to1000-bed hospitals – to save more and more lives and defeat the pandemic.”
Mishra, the Congress spokesperson, alleged that the Vyapam accused have deep political connections and that there have been rumours that a few politicians are silent partners in these hospitals. “These Vyapam accused have political patronage and a few politicians of the current regime have a share in these hospitals,” he said.