Help is at hand, if only the AMRI-Apollo management is willing.
A day after the Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc)-controlled employees’ union allegedly forced the management to “restrict” admissions to one of the city’s largest healthcare institutions, the government on Monday declared it would “whole-heartedly” support the management if it initiated action against the “recalcitrant” union.
The hospital has been facing a crisis since Friday, when a dispute over payment of festival bonus blew up. The union claims the hospital started operations in the financial year 1996-97, making payment of bonus a possibility this year.
The management, however, maintains the end-1996 admissions were only a “pre-operative dry run” and says the hospital started in earnest in 1997-98, allowing it to continue paying only ex-gratia for another year.
State health department principal secretary Asim Barman said at Writers’ Buildings on Monday that the issue had come up during a discussion with health minister Surya Kanta Mishra. Commissioner of police Sujoy Chakraborty had been asked to protect and cooperate with the hospital authorities, in case of any eventuality, Barman added.
“We will not tolerate any vandalism inside a hospital,” Barman said at Writers’ Buildings on Monday. Admitting that it was within the rights of workers to “launch a peaceful movement”, Barman made it clear that the hospital premises were out of bounds for any agitation.
“We will not hesitate to ask the police to take appropriate action in case of an agitation on the hospital premises,” said the health secretary, also chairman of the managing board of the hospital, a joint-venture project.
The hospital authorities said they had been forced to restrict admissions to only “emergency patients” since Friday, when the bonus issue first rocked it.
The hospital — with 160 beds — usually has around 85 per cent occupancy. Before the agitation, the number of patients was 141. Now, there are only 98, a figure the management broadcast to put “into perspective” the real situation in the hospital.
AMRI vice-president Satyabrata Upadhyay said on Monday night that the hospital might have to “close down if the situation does not improve”.
Patients were being shifted elsewhere, as the “belligerence” of the employees had convinced the management that it would not be possible for it to extend the “quality care” it was known for, he added.
The union, however, claimed that the hospital authorities were restricting admissions to paint them in a “poor light... We are not being intransigent, neither are we making illegal demands,” asserted union general secretary Deepak Baruah.