On Sunday – August 2 – Union Home Minster Amit Shah took to Twitter to inform the public that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was getting himself to a hospital on the advice of doctors. He, however, chose a private healthcare facility – Naresh Trehan’s Medanta Hospital in Gurugram – over the public All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), a fact questioned by many. Does this imply that government hospital facilities are not up to the mark to treat minsters? What signal does this send to the common citizens, who are being told day in and day out that everything is hunky dory in government hospitals?
Among those who questioned the preference of the Home Minister was Congress MP Shashi Tharoor this morning.
“...Wonder why our Home Minister, when ill, chose not to go to AIIMS but to a private hospital in a neighbouring state. Public institutions need the patronage of the powerful if they are to inspire public confidence (sic),” he said.
It is a pertinent question. Prominent politician after politician has resorted to private healthcare facilities at a time when the spike in COVID-19 cases is threatening to register a single-day high each day.
News agency IANS reported that Shah had been admitted to Medanta, and ANI reported that a team from doctors from AIIMS, led by its director Dr. Randeep Guleria, is likely to visit.
Not everyone can afford the best of both worlds, however. Even Kamal Rani Varun, the 62-year-old former Technical Education minister – the only female in CM Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet – died of COVID-19 on August 2 at the Sanjay Gandhi Postgraduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPIMS) in Lucknow, a public-funded institution.
The ‘big names’, however, continue to have access to private facilities seemingly at will.
On June 9, PTI reported that recently-appointed Rajya Sabha member, the BJP’s Jyotiraditya Scindia, was admitted to Max Hospital in Saket, New Delhi. Before Shah, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had also been admitted to Medanta in Gurugram.
On August 2, again, Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit also tested positive for COVID-19. The governor was deemed “asymptomatic and clinically stable” by Kauvery Hospital in Chennai, another private hospital. The same day, Karnataka Chief Minister, B.S. Yeddiyurappa tweeted that he had tested positive for COVID-19 too. “I have tested positive for coronavirus. Whilst I am fine, I am being hospitalised as a precaution on the recommendation of doctors,” he wrote on Twitter. Subsequently, PTI reported that the CM had been admitted to Manipal Hospital, with doctors at the facility quoted saying that he was “doing well” and is “clinically stable”.
Earlier, Tamil Nadu ministers Sellur K. Raju and P. Thangamani, the Minister for Co-operation and the Electricity Minster respectively, had tested positive for COVID-19. While the former was admitted to the MIOT International Hospital, the latter was in Apollo Hospital, Chennai – both private facilities.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tested positive for COVID-19 on July 25, and is still in hospital. NDTV had reported that Chouhan was admitted to Chirayu Hospital in Bhopal. In June, the state’s health minister, Narottam Mishra, was at the facility to laud the work being done by private hospitals at a ceremony to celebrate the discharge of 1,000 COVID-19 patients. A Hindustan Times report explained why the decision did not go down too well with public healthcare professionals in the state.
At the moment, India has 18,08,322 cases of COVID-19 and 38,201 deaths, with 5,81,035 active cases. In this situation, if top government functionaries exhibit a 'trust deficit' in government hospitals, think of the impact this could have on the morale of thousands of 'Covid warriors' risking their lives, and lakhs of people depending on government hospitals to save their lives.
With inputs from PTI