The circular - signed by Dr Avinash Supe, dean of KEM Hospital and director of major hospitals and issued on April 29 - states: "Doctors are instructed to talk properly with patients accompanied by MLAs, corporators and public representatives. They should be treated on a priority basis. There shouldn't be any communication gap between doctors and relatives of patients so that patients can gain trust."
The VIP list
The circular then lists the names of around 40 VIPs, including Mayor Vishwanath Mahadeshwar, group leader of the Sena in BMC Yashwant Jadhav, BJP leader Manoj Kotak, NCP leader Rahul Jadhav, BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta, chairperson of works committee (city) Vishakha Raur, chairman of works Committee (suburban) Tulsiram Shinde, chairperson of public health committee Rohini Kamble, chairperson of markets and garden committee Sanvi Tandal, chairman of law and revenue committee Subas Wadkar, chairperson of women and child welfare committee Sindhu Masurkar, and 24 ward corporators. Contact numbers of the VIPs also figure on the list.
Justifying the move, Dr Supe said, "Corporators have repeatedly complained that they weren't given adequate attention when they visited civic hospitals for treatment. They said they were asked to stand in queues. So, we passed the circular."
He said such preferential bias is already in place in hospitals and doctors have now been told to treat VIPs with deference.
The directive comes at a time when civic hospitals are facing its worst manpower crunch and patients are forced to wait endlessly for treatment.
Owing to the shortage, patients have to wait for hours for treatment, said renowned health activist Dr Ravikanth Singh. "The circular would only stretch out the waiting period. The poor, who have no political connections, will suffer more."
A senior doctor at KEM Hospital said the waiting period for a CT/MRI scan at the major hospitals of the BMC stretches to two months. "Only emergency cases are given priority. In such a scenario, how can influential patients claim priority? We have come across several patients trying to wield an influence. We refuse to give them priority on moral grounds, but now that the circular has been issued, we will have to do so."
Condemning the circular, consumer rights activist Jehangir Gai said bias in medical treatment is akin to violation of patients' rights.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
Get the latest election news, live updates and election schedule for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 on ndtv.com/elections. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter and Instagram for updates from each of the 543 parliamentary seats for the 2019 Indian general elections.