A doctor at Hindu Rao Hospital in Delhi was sacked for allegedly “diverting” medical equipment and “bringing disrepute to the institution”, The Indian Express reported on Friday.
The doctor, identified as Piyush Pushkar Singh, claimed he had distributed personal protective equipment and face shields to hospital staff after procuring them from a non-governmental organisation. The Delhi government has designated Hindu Rao Hospital as a coronavirus screening centre.
Singh, a student in the orthopaedics department, also alleged that authorities terminated his services as he highlighted lapses and wrongdoings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Dr Piyush Pushkar Singh, DNB student in Orthopaedics Department is terminated from his services with immediate effect for bringing disrepute to the institution,” an order issued on Wednesday said.
North Delhi Municipal Corporation Commissioner Varsha Joshi, under whose jurisdiction the hospital falls, accused Singh of diverting protective gear. “All material donated was to go to the medical superintendent,” she said. “We have maintained a very transparent account of each donated item. He didn’t just divert the material but also unauthorisedly distributed it to persons who don’t need it. He cannot decide priority of requirements. This was the immediate and essential reason for his termination.”
Singh told Hindustan Times that the hospital authorities took offence that he distributed the medical equipment. “The hospital’s medical superintendent told me to return them,” he added. “I even tried getting them back but the other doctors refused to return them, and now this has cost me my job.”
Joshi, however, maintained that his services were terminated because of “serious misdemeanor”. “He put other doctors at risk by misappropriating safety gear meant for the HRH store and distributing it himself at his own sweet will,” she tweeted. “Such chaos can’t be allowed in a frontline institution.”
Meanwhile, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Friday that he will ascertain the facts in the matter and take adequate steps.
Singh was earlier issued a showcause notice after he uploaded a video shot inside the hospital purportedly showing leakage in the ceiling. He was asked to explain why he uploaded the video on Facebook by bypassing “available channels to air his grievances/complaints”.
Mayor Avtar Singh said the action was taken as he would “constantly post things on social media against the Hindu Rao establishment”. “You cannot keep doing this against your employer,” he added.
The doctor denied the allegations against him and said he will challenge the decision in court. “I was the one who arranged the face shields after speaking to an NGO,” Singh said. “We don’t risk our lives daily to be treated like this. No enquiry was set up to probe the allegations.”
Standing committee head of the North Corporation, Jai Prakash, said they will constitute an inquiry committee to probe the matter.
Meanwhile, the Congress on Friday criticised the government and called Singh’s termination “shameful and unacceptable”. “
“Dr. Piyush Pushkar Singh of the Hindu Rao Hospital, Delhi, terminated for arranging personal protection equipment and N-95 masks for colleagues,” party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said. “This is shameful and unacceptable. The BJP run North Municipal Corporation of Delhi won’t provide enough PPEs, and [Chief Minister Arvind] Kejriwal’s government won’t chip in either. How will Covid-19 warriors fight?”
The Resident Doctors’ Association of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences also criticised the action against Singh. “Stop targeting doctors,” Srinivas Rajkumar, the general secretary of the Resident Doctors’ Association, wrote on Twitter. “Why should a doctor arrange PPE by himself? The administration should ensure PPE is provided to doctors while on duty and avoid interference and unruly behavior by top executives.”
Rajkumar also shared a letter written by the association to Union minister Vardhan. “We have also noted incidents of bullying and threats issued on popular social media platform by a government executive (Commissioner, NDMC) through her official account,” the letter said. “We wish to submit that such actions against healthcare workers would only demoralize them especially in a situation where there is a scarcity of professionals.”
The association urged the Hindu Rao administration to exercise restraint and conduct an inquiry into the matter. “These sorts of hasty and harsh decisions can be detrimental to the spirit of healthcare workers.”