Doctors and health care staff of Sudha fertility centre in Erode staged a protest inside the hospital, after the Madras High Court on Friday, August 5 upheld the government order of shutting down the hospital and sealing its scanning centres by setting aside a single judge ruling to de-seal it. The first bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice D Bharatha Chakravarthy passed the order while allowing the appeal moved by the state government against the single judge order. More than 250 private hospitals in Erode district suspended outpatient services on Saturday against the government’s action of sealing the hospital.
Sudha hospital and other three hospitals were ordered to shut down after an inquiry committee from the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services (DMS) found irregularities in receiving eggs /ova from the donor in these hospitals, in a case related to the 16-year-old girl forced to sell her ova (unfertilised egg). The inquiry committee submitted its report on July 7. The irregularities came to light after a 16-year-old girl made a complaint that her mother and mother's partner forced her to sell her ova in the last four years to various hospitals in Tamil Nadu and neighbouring states. On July 14, the Tamil Nadu Health Minister said that four hospitals in the state would face action and subsequently, scanning centres at the hospitals were sealed. On July 15, a team led by R Premakumari, Joint Director of Health Services, Erode, sealed the scan centre at Sudha hospital in Erode. Sudha hospital in Salem, Ram Prasad hospital in Perundurai, and Vijaya hospital in Hosur were also closed. However, Sudha hospital in Erode approached the Madras High Court against the order.
On July 21, a single judge of the Madras HC quashed the order passed by the director of medical and rural health services for temporarily sealing the hospital. Justice Abdul Quddhose observed that the authorities have failed to record the grounds for suspending the registration of hospitals without issuing any notice as mandated under the Tamil Nadu Private Clinical Establishment (Regulation) act and Pre-Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act.
On the evening of August 5, R Premkumari visited Sudha hospital in Erode and asked the management to close the hospital within two hours. The doctors and hospital staff went for a sit-in protest and demanded job security. They have also said the protest was to get the attention of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and the Health and Family Welfare Minister.
Condemning the move, Dr C N Raja, vice president, IMA (Indian Medical Association) headquarters said, “We are not against the appropriate, legitimate actions taken by the government. But this is a drastic one.
“Closing the hospital damaged the reputation of the hospital and the doctors. And this is not something new that is happening in Tamil Nadu. What are the actions, so far, taken against the government hospitals if the government finds any irregularities? Why are they (the government) targeting private hospitals repeatedly?” he queried.
Dr Raja claimed that the government and media were projecting them as flesh traders. “This is unacceptable. All we ask is, why is there an urgency to close this hospital? Where is the concern about the common people who are getting treatment inside the hospital? What is the point of closing pediatric, cardiology, nephrology, and neurology departments of the hospitals if some doctors in the fertility department made mistakes?
The government’s action is being seen as demoralising and destroying the hospitals that have functioned for more than three decades, Dr Raja added. “To stop these drastic actions taken by the government against the private hospitals and to condemn this, private hospitals in Erode district today staged a protest,” he said.
Dr. Palanisamy, president of IMA TNSB (Indian Medical Association Tamil Nadu State Branch), said that doctors and hospital management gave full cooperation to the inquiry from the very beginning, and it is not fair to close the entire hospital as this multispeciality hospital has a lot of employees in various departments.
Dr Palanisamy asked to spare a thought for the hundreds of patients who are regularly getting treatment from that hospital and more than 400 staff including staff nurses in the hospital. “Overnight, the order from the government made every one of them insecure about their jobs. From the hospital's side, they didn't verify the Aadhaar card of the donor. The private hospitals can't verify every Aadhaar card they collect. Doctors who are working there are willing to cooperate with further inquiry too. If the government finds more than this (failed aadhaar card verification), it can go and take action against a particular department. Closure of the hospital not only harms the doctors and other medical staff but also the common public who are taking treatment in the hospital. We demand the government to look into this issue," Dr Palanisamy added.
The 16-year-old girl from Erode was forced to sell her ova for the last four years. She had been forced to sell her eggs at least 8 times, and in exchange, her mother received Rs 20,000 and Rs 5000 from a broker. The teen was sexually harassed multiple times by her mother's partner. After experiencing emotional and sexual abuse, the victim disclosed her trauma to her relatives in Salem. The relatives immediately complained against the trio to Erode South Police. The girl’s mother, her mother's partner, and a broker were arrested and booked under the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act on June 2. A person who forged the victim's Aadhaar card was also arrested by Erode South police. On August 3, according to the Health Minister Ma Subramaniyam, the state police invoked the National Security Act (NSA) against the three accused – the survivor's mother, the mother's partner, and a broker.
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