Representational Image. Image Courtesy: ANI
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the country’s premier healthcare institution, has allegedly diverted Rs 50 lakh to the PM CARES Fund even though the money received from Bharat Dynamics, a public sector enterprise under the Ministry of Defence, was earmarked for the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment. PPE is extremely important to protect doctors from the highly-contagious novel coronavirus.
Doctors affiliated with the Resident Doctors Association (RDA) maintain that the AIIMS administration is functioning in an opaque manner and is reluctant to inform them about the availability of the PPEs even after a doctor from the institute was infected with COVID-19. E-mails exchanged between Bharat Dynamics and AIIMS, accessed by NewsClick, reveal that the money was directed to the recently-announced Prime Ministers’ Citizens Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund), even though the company intended to donate the money to AIIMS for procuring PPEs through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). The process was coordinated with the help of the RDA which now alleges that the money was diverted, putting them at the risk of infection.
Speaking to NewsClick, Dr. Srinivas Rajkumar T, General Secretary of the RDA said: “AIIMS administration has diverted the funds available from Bharat Dynamics as CSR amounting to Rs 50 lakhs to exclusively procure PPE, to the PM CARES fund. The process had been co-ordinated by the RDA. This act of diversion is extremely irresponsible behaviour by the hospital administration of AIIMS which conveyed contradictory information to us via email and other channels. We demand an explanation from them for acting in this manner and letting our work go in vain.”
He added that reports from across the country mention that “doctors are being threatened for raising questions over the quality of PPE. Now, please remember that the coronavirus spreads through droplets released from the mouth of an infected person. If PPEs are porous, doctors will not only get sick but also become carriers of the virus. It would lead to a situation akin to Italy and Spain where doctors became victims, thus compromising any country’s capacity to combat the virus.” The doctors at the hospital, in a letter dated March 16, had apprised the administration about “the lack of PPEs in various wards of the hospitals.”
On March 28, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the PM CARES Fund with the “primary objective of dealing with any kind of emergency or distress situation, like posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to provide relief to the affected". Aside from the PM who is the Chairman of the Trust, it has the Defence Minister, the Home Minister and the Finance Minister as members, among others. However, the decision was criticised with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor tweeting: “Why not simply rename PMNRF as PM-CARES, given the Prime Minister's penchant for catchy acronyms, instead of creating a separate Public Charitable Trust whose rules and expenditure are totally opaque? @PMOIndia, you owe the country an explanation for this highly unusual step."
Contract Doctors Resign from Delhi Hospital Due to Lack of PPE
At least four contractual doctors of the Hindu Rao Hospital in North Delhi expressed their desire to leave the facility during the coronavirus outbreak owing to lack of personal protective equipment. The hospital, run by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation is screening coronavirus patients. However, testing is being conducted at other Centres approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
Responding to the resignations, NDMC Commissioner Varsha Joshi, tweeted that the “order was issued against directions of DHA and without the knowledge of Additional Commissioner and Commissioner. Disciplinary action will be taken for this disobedience".
"From my side, ANY unwilling worker is MORE than welcome to resign. Especially in a pandemic (sic)," Joshi added. “More PPE kits are being procured directly from the manufacturers. We will evidently never undertake any activity which risks our staff,” she mentioned.