Slams State Govt Over Funds Row At Wadia Hosps

The court slammed the Maharashtra government for the delay in releasing funds for Wadia Hospitals for women and children

The Bombay High Court on Thursday came down heavily on the Maharashtra government for dragging its feet over financial aid to Wadia Hospitals for women and children, and said the government has money for statues but not for public health.

Referring to the plight of patients at the twin Wadia hospitals in Parel due to freeze of grants, the Bombay high court on Thursday slammed the state government, saying it has money to build Dr B R Ambedkar’s statue, but not to spend on the poor and middle class who cannot afford treatment at ‘star’ hospitals.

The comment came a day after the state cabinet raised the cost of the Ambedkar memorial project at Dadar’s Indu Mills by Rs 300 crore, taking it to Rs 1,070 crore, to account for a 100ft increase in the icon’s statue. “For that (statue), money is there, but the same people Ambedkar represented all his life can die. They need medical aid or statues?” asked the bench of Justices Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and Riyaz Chagla while hearing a public interest litigation to release grants by the state and BMC to the Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital and Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children. While the state and BMC share 50% of the grant to the maternity hospital, BMC funds 85% of the grant to the children’s hospital.

Advocate Girish Godbole, for the state government, said the finance department has sanctioned Rs 24 crore from the contingent fund and it will be given in lumpsum within three weeks.

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This is an eyewash. This, to materialize, will take months. Tomorrow this amount should be released,” said Justice Dharmadhikari, adding that otherwise, right from the state chief secretary to the deputy secretary, “we will parade them here (in court). You want that?” Godbole also said the government will scrutinise if the maternity hospital’s other claims are genuine and added in “the administration some are drawing salary from the two establishments”. He said “amounts claimed are inflated”. The judges questioned what officials of the public health department, when it was part of the trust, were doing. Senior advocate Rafiq Dada, for the hospitals, said all accounts are audited. “They (officials) used to come to meet you (Wadia) for a cup of tea,” said Justice Dharmadhikari.

Dada said salaries are not paid. He said there are 300 critical beds and a total 800 beds in both hospitals. “Critical patients are not being admitted. It is very distressing.” The judges said they thought “when there are new faces as political bosses, all this would stop”. They said non-release of grants led to trustees taking measures to refuse admissions and discharge patients. “This is disgusting. Why should anybody who is not part of the dispute suffer? In the commercial capital, (the) poor strata of society is refused admission at a charitable hospital in which the state is a partner,” they said.

The judges said the state is competing to build a statue of Ambedkar taller than that of Sardar Patel. They asked if by looking at statues, hunger, physical ailments and miseries would go. They didn’t spare CM Uddhav Thackeray, who on Wednesday launched the first girder of MTHL. “You have time to inaugurate a bridge yet to be built. We are thankful to the CM for finding time to meet them (l stakeholders),” Justice Dharmadhikari said, asking if HC should acknowledge it in its order.

A division bench of Justices S.C. Dharmadhikari and R.I.Chagla was hearing a public interest litigation seeking release of grants to Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children and Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the State government.

The maternity hospital receives grant from the State government and the children’s hospital gets it from the BMC.

Government counsel Girish Godbole told the court that the State finance department has sanctioned ₹24 crore from the contingency fund.

“The amount will be released lump sum to the Wadia Maternity Hospital within three weeks,” he said.

The bench, however, said it was unimpressed with this and that the amount should be released by Friday.

“The government wants to build Babasaheb Ambedkar’s statue taller than the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue. For all this money is there, but those people whom Ambedkar represented all his life can die?” Justice Dharmadhikari asked.

“Do people require medical aid or statues to rid themselves of ailments and diseases?” the court asked.

Public health has never been a priority for the government, the bench said, adding that the “Chief Minister is busy inaugurating bridges“.

“We thought there are new faces at the political helm, then all these matters won’t come to court. This does not auger well,” the court said.

The court also said that in a city like Mumbai, which is considered as the country’s commercial capital, people from the poorer section of society are refused admission to a charitable hospital.

“This is disgusting. How can people, mainly women and children, be refused admission to a hospital? Children are dying and the State machinery is not doing anything in States like Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat…”

“Should we have the same situation in Maharashtra?” Justice Dharmadhikari said.

The court said due to lack of funds, hospitals are finding it difficult to cater to the needs of patients.

“These patients cannot afford private hospitals as they are mainly from the poor section of society. They require urgent medical attention. In such circumstances, the State government is obliging nobody by making statements that funds have been sanctioned,” the court said.

The BMC informed the bench that it will release ₹14 crore for Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children.

The court posted the matter for further hearing on Friday, when the government will have to state by when the funds sanctioned will be released.