TVM collector’s summons to doctor escalates into IAS versus CPI union clash

TVM District Collector Geromic George(Left) Joint Council of State Service Organisations general secretary Jayachandran Kallingal (Right). Photo: Manorama.

Thiruvananthapuram District Collector Geromic George's controversial move to summon a doctor who was seeing patients at the outpatient (OP) wing of the General Hospital to his official residence for treatment has blown up into a major confrontation between IAS officers and Joint Council of State Service Organisations. The Joint Council is an influential service union affiliated to CPI, the party that runs the Revenue Department.

Revenue principal secretary Tinku Biswal, allegedly at the insistence of Kerala IAS Officers' Association, has served a show cause notice to Jayachandran Kallingal, the general secretary of Joint Council on April 11. Sources said the show cause was served without the knowledge of Revenue Minister K Rajan.

Kallingal has been pulled up for his open criticism of the collector. He has been asked to state why he had talked to the media flouting service rules. Kallingal is special Tahsildar of Travancore Devaswom Board and he comes under the district collector.

"Calling any officer home is unacceptable practice," Kallingal told a news channel. He also alleged that there were complaints that the Thiruvananthapuram collector treated his subordinates, including deputy collectors, like slaves. He also said that the district medical officer (DMO) should not have acceded to the Collector's request for treatment at home.

Director of Health Services Dr KJ Reena has already sought a report from the DMO, Dr Bindu Mohan, on the issue. It was the DMO who had despatched Dr Unnikrishnan, posted in the surgery ward of the General Hospital, to the collector's camp office. When the collector's gunman called up the DMO asking for the service of a doctor, she had called up the resident medical officer (RMO) of Peroorkada District Hospital. The RMO, Dr Anil Radhakrishnan, refused. It was then that Dr Unnikrishnan was sent.

When there was a huge public outcry against the collector's action, the IAS Officers' Association quickly rallied behind the Collector. Its president B Ashok, now Kerala Agricultural University Vice Chancellor, invoked the All India Service Medical Attendance Rules, 1954, to say that the Thiruvananthapuram DMO and the assistant civil surgeons under her were duty-bound to provide medical assistance to All India Service officers and their family members.

It was section 3(1) of the Rules that Ashok held up. "A member of the Service shall be entitled to free of charge to medical attendance by the authorised medical attendant," it says. Under the Rules, an ‘authorised medical attendant’ means the principal medical officer appointed by the government to attend to its officers in the district.

Ashok also said that section 8(1) of the 1954 Rules entitled All India Service officers to treatment at homes. It is true but the section sets two conditions for government doctors to treat top officers at their residences. One, absence or remoteness of a suitable hospital. Two, severity of the illness.

This is section 8(1): "If the authorised medical attendant is of opinion that owing to the absence or remoteness of a suitable hospital or to the severity of the illness a member of the Service cannot be given treatment, he may receive treatment at his residence." In the Thiruvananthaupram collector's case, there were good government hospitals nearby and his reported illness was not of a severe nature.

However, Ashok said that the decision to treat the collector at his camp office avoided crucial policy-level delays. "At a time when the collector is engrossed 24x7 in leading the election machinery, visiting a hospital with an ailing foot should be seen as inappropriate," he said.

To the most damning charge that a doctor was taken out of OP duties to serve the Collector, Ashok said that it was the call of the DMO to send a doctor to the residence of the collector. "If the treatment was to be given only after the OP hours, the decision had to be taken by the medical officer in charge who had assessed the condition of the patient (collector). It is the responsibility of the medical officer to provide treatment without affecting the OP. There is no point in accusing the collector for this," he said.

Ashok also said that it was unethical on the part of the doctor to reveal the collector’s medical condition to service organisations. "An impression has now been created that patient details are not secure with government doctors," he said.

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