Wadia Hospitals’ staff on 3-day protest

While existing employees demand payment of salaries, ex-staff members want their pensions cleared

January 14, 2020 01:56 am | Updated 01:58 am IST - Mumbai

Up in arms:  Retired and serving staff of Wadia Hospitals protesting outside Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital on Monday.

Up in arms: Retired and serving staff of Wadia Hospitals protesting outside Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital on Monday.

Serving and retired employees of Nowrosjee Wadia Maternity Hospital (NWMH) and Bai Jerbai Wadia Hospital for Children (BJWHC) on Monday began a three-day protest against the hospital management, the Brihanamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and the State government.

Under the Mumbai General Kamgar Union banner, current and past employees gathered on the hospital premises in Parel. While the existing staff are demanding payment of their salaries, which have remained unpaid for a month, the retired employees want their unpaid pensions of the last month to be released.

Prakash Reddy, general secretary of the Communist Party of India, Mumbai unit, who joined the protesters, said 15% of the hospital funds are provided by the management, as they look after the infrastructure, while the rest 85% of funds come in the form of grants from the State government and the BMC in equal proportion. “This money is used for buying medicines and paying salaries,” Mr. Reddy said.

A Wadia Hospitals’ spokesperson said as per the trust deeds of the hospitals, there are four members from the BMC on the board of management for BJWHC and two members each from the BMC and the State government on the board of management for NWMH, and it is up to the BMC who it wants to appoint on the board.

“The BMC through its representatives on the board of management of both the hospitals is party to all the decisions of the hospitals as per the provisions of the trust deed. As on date, as per the government resolution of 2010, the BMC is to clear outstanding dues of ₹ 31.44 crore to NWMH and another ₹105.85 crore to BJWHC. Further, the matter is sub judice before the Bombay High Court and thus it will be improper to comment any further,” the spokesperson said.

It is learnt that a committee formed by the BMC to look into the affairs of Wadia Hospitals in late 2019 had found serious irregularities, owing to which the civic body had decided to hold back around 10% amount due to the hospitals. However, there are differences between the trust and the BMC over the total amount due to the hospitals. According to a trust deed signed between the hospitals and the BMC, the civic body pays 100% subsidy to the children’s hospital and 50% to the maternity hospital every quarter. The BMC has held back money from its December payment.

Sonal Kale, head nurse of NWMH, said, “I have been serving this hospital for the last 32 years. Now, I do not want this hospital to be privatised as it would not be beneficial for the working class and they will not be able to afford the treatment in a private hospital. Even though the management has not paid us a month’s salary, we will still continue to do our job. The misunderstanding is between the State and the management, therefore the patient should not suffer.” She claimed that the aim of the protest is to stop the hospital from being privatised.

Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO of BJWHC, said, “Yes, the hospital is facing some financial issues but we will not shut down this hospital.”

Mr. Reddy said the hospitals were started for the working class who could not afford expensive medical treatment. “This is not a strike; both the hospitals are running according to their schedules. We are just putting out a word. Mayor Kishori Pednekar has said she will release the remaining funds in the next two-three days, but we need to find a permanent solution to this problem. We visited Mantralaya on Monday, and a meeting with Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar has been fixed for Tuesday,” he said.

According to information shared by additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakane on Monday, the hospital management has not given information related to how many beds have been set aside for mill workers’ families even though they are mandated to keep 50% beds reserved, and both the children’s hospital and the maternity hospital have not taken the BMC’s permission to increase the number of beds from sanctioned strength.

The BMC has alleged that the hospital management has recruited more staff than permissible, while they are not providing free treatment and instead charging twice or thrice of the municipal rates. It has claimed that at least six senior officers are receiving salaries and allowances for both hospitals. The civic body has further alleged that at least 10 staffers are receiving pension from both hospitals, and the BMC has not been submitted any records to show the hospitals’ revenue.

The Mayor on Monday held a meeting with group leaders of all political parties along with Mr. Kakane. The Mayor will be holding a meeting with the hospital management and the BMC administration on Tuesday to resolve the differences. The Mayor made it clear that the hospital would not be shut down.

A group of Bharatiya Janata Party supporters led by Leader of Opposition in the Council, Pravin Darekar, visited the hospital and raised slogans. Mr. Darekar alleged that the ruling Shiv Sena was eyeing the hospital land. “Grants have been given to the hospitals, but it has somehow not reached the hands of the right people. This has been done just to target the previous BJP government,” he said.

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