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Coronavirus in Maharashtra: Mumbai doctor alleges continuous harassment by government authorities amidst pandemic

Dr Amit Thadani took to Twitter to allege that municipal and government authorities in Maharashtra have been abusing their powers to harass private hospitals amidst coronavirus pandemic

Even as Maharashtra was in the throes of a rampaging coronavirus pandemic, the government authorities in the state were more occupied with coercing the doctors to their whims, alleged Dr Aman Thadani in an elaborate series of tweets on the microblogging website Twitter. The doctor has accused the authorities of bullying doctors and private hospitals at a time when the state is reeling under an unprecedented pandemic.

The medical director of Niramaya Holistic Health Services Pvt. Ltd, Dr Amit Thadani, posted a harrowing account of what he and others from his profession had to go through at the hands of government employees while the coronavirus pandemic was taking root in Maharashtra, about 2 months ago.

In a flurry of tweets, Thadani accused the state government of bullying the doctors and hospitals even as they were struggling to cope up with the surging coronavirus cases.

Thadani claimed that Maharashtra government issued a circular on May 21, 2020, instituting draconian measures to “regulate” charges, not just of COVID treatment but for all other ailments.

He alleged that without any deliberations with doctors, associations or hospitals, charges for COVID treatment were capped arbitrarily. However, the government overreach did not stop just there. Even non-COVID related treatment charges were curbed, forcing all medical institutes to bill with lowest ward rates and maximum chargeable tariffs.

Thadani continued that despite being rejected for converting his hospital to COVID treatment centre by Panvel Municipal Corporation, he was summoned by Panvel Municipal Commissioner Sudhakar Deshmukh and threatened with dire consequences if he failed in converting his hospital into a COVID facility within three days.

Hospitals routinely hounded by Municipal corporation with their “audit teams”

The doctor also bemoaned that the “audit team” of PMC routinely visited the hospital to “scrutinise” the bills generated by them, even as they were hard-pressed to get their logistics, processes and reporting in place.

He asserted that the government authorities seemed more obsessed with paperwork and examinations the bills of hospitals rather than about patient care and outcomes of the treatment.

Amidst all this, the hospital was persistently harassed. Thadani claimed that “audit teams” showed up unannounced on several occasions, demanding papers, bills and other paraphernalia while dozens of OPD patients awaited treatment.

Panvel Municipal Commissioner threatened of revoking the license of hospitals: Dr Amit Thadani

When Thadani and his colleague opposed this unprofessional behaviour with the Municipal Commissioner, not only were they threatened with license revocation, they were also verbally abused and railroaded to follow what the authorities had asked them to. A show cause notice was sent to Thadani’ hospital, seeking forcible empanelment with MPJAY scheme within 3 days, or risk getting their licences revoked.

With the Municipal Corporation and its authorities relentlessly bullying Thadani and his hospital to their whims, the doctor approached the court to seek a stay on continuous harassment.

The judge came down hard against the PMC authorities, questioning them if we are living in a police state like Iran. The court observed in its order that the commissioner has no jurisdiction in the working of a private hospital.

While this came as a much-needed relief for Thadani and Niramaya Holistic Health Services Pvt. Ltd, he has also challenged the validity of May 21 order. Thadani asserts that none of the Acts invoked by the Maharashtra government in the order grants them any power to “regulate” charges of private hospitals.

Similarly, a hospital in Thane, Horizon Prime Hospital‘s license was suspended for a month by the Thane Municipal Corporation. The TMC then extended the suspension for three weeks. However, the HC granted relief to the private hospital, following several other private medical facilities who have been wrongly targeted by the government authorities have planned to take a legal remedy to end their ordeal.

Media report of HC granting relief to Thane-based private hospital

Government authorities obsessed with punishing private hospitals as caseloads in Maharashtra surge

At a time when the state is marred with the scourge of coronavirus, the Mumbai doctor has levelled serious allegations of bullying against the government authorities, accusing them of harassment of the front line forces and private hospitals that are scrambling to contain the inexorable spread of the pandemic.

It is worth noting that while Maharashtra government authorities showed unusual alacrity in exercising their powers and punishing private hospitals that appeared to fall afoul of the government directives, the coronavirus cases in Maharashtra continued to explode at a precipitous rate, propelling it to the top of the list of the states with highest coronavirus cases.

The misplaced priorities of government authorities is certainly one of the many reasons why the state spectacularly failed in curbing the galloping coronavirus outbreak.

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