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Sena attack forces hospital lock-out

Mumbai, Sept. 19: A hospital on the outskirts of the city has decided to close down its premises following an alleged attack by the Shiv Sena on its property.

The management of the Bhaktivedanta Hospital in Mira Road today issued a lock-out notice, saying “the drastic step” was taken by the management after the hospital received repeated complaints from its staff that the Sena was threatening them with dire consequences.

“We fear for the safety of our patients and our staff. After the mob attack on the hospital, the staff have been repeatedly been threatened even at their homes. Our first duty as a responsible citizen is to prevent any harm that could come to the patients and the staff — and we have been forced to take this severe step only to protect their interests,” said Bhaktivedanta CEO Rajesh Talwar.

The alleged attack has provoked outrage in the private health sector. The Association of Hospitals in Mumbai, of which most private hospitals, including Breach Candy, Jaslok and Leelavati hospitals, are members, condemned it strongly as “a politically-motivated attack”.

“Hospitals should be given protection by state machinery. The hospitals are here only to help save lives and when they themselves become victims of politically motivated attacks it shows intellectual bankruptcy of the politicians, a sterile police and a comatose citizenry,” said president of the association M.L. Bhakta.

“The decision to close down belongs to the hospital’s management. But it is very unfortunate that hospitals are being subjected to such attacks when the country needs health services more than ever,” said Brigadier Joe Curian, spokesperson of the Association of Hospitals.

“With a lock-out, the future of the hospital’s employees become uncertain,” he added.

According to Talwar, the 130-bed hospital recently formalised a wage compensation settlement with its employees’ union. Most of the 300-odd employees reportedly accepted the settlement, but those who did not, joined forces with the Bharatiya Kamgar Sena (BKS), the trade union wing of the Sena.

On Wednesday, they broke open the main door, destroyed the amplifiers and main consoles of the EPABX, causing damage to the staircase entrance door and the pathology laboratory, the hospital said. The management has lodged a complaint at the Kashi-Mira police station against the employees who participated in the violence.

The Sena, however, denied that its members had gone on a rampage. “There was no violence,” party leader Subhas Desai said. “Some employees of the hospital want to join the Kamgar Sena. But the hospital authorities want to prevent that,” he said.

This is not the first time that the Sena has been accused of destroying hospital properties. Two years ago, a Sena mob had descended upon a hospital owned by the Singhania family, owners of Raymond, in Thane district, when one of the party’s leaders admitted in the hospital died there.

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