The blue-eyed boys of health administration

Srinagar: Amidst all the other problems afflicting health administration in the state, there is another one, though usually kept below the radar: that of individuals holding posts they simply are not eligible for. The incumbent in-charge medical superintendent of GB Pant hospital, Dr Shafqat Khan, is one such case, according to sources.
Says a GMC administrator, on condition of anonymity, “Shafqat was not the choice of Principal GMC, Rafique Pampori. He has been made in-charge without taking him (the Principal) into confidence.”
“An in-charge medical superintendent,” the administrator added, “has to have experience of holding the chair of deputy medical superintendent for two years and a permanent medical superintendent needs five years experience as deputy. But Dr Shafqat just does not have that sort of experience.”
Dr Shafqat, who ranks 698 in the seniority list, has done his MBBS from Russia. In 1997, he was appointed as an assistant surgeon, and later was being deputed as a personal doctor to the then-chief minister, Farooq Abdullah.
“When you have doctors around who have worked in the field for a long time and are eligible for the post, and you drop them and pick a person who has not worked for that long in the health department, it is sheer injustice,” a senior doctor says.
“There is resentment among doctors in GB Pant against the decision of the government,” the doctor added, “but we are not reacting because we know our reaction won’t change the government’s decision.”
Dr Shafqat has done his diploma in hospital administration via correspondence, and then worked as a health officer in the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. “He has done his diploma through correspondence, which means the degree is not valid in order to get a promotion from the Public Service Commission. And to be a health officer, you need a master’s degree or diploma in public health, which he doesn’t have,” says a source.
Dr Shafqat also worked as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the then-health minister Mangat Ram Sharma. And during his tenure as OSD, there were reports that he had transferred NRHM funds amounting to around Rs 40 crore into his own account. The funds were meant for opening ANM/GNM schools in Jammu and Kashmir under the centrally sponsored scheme of upgradation and strengthening of state nursing services.
Dr Shafqat was subsequently suspended from service and the government issued an order that he should be demoted to the post of assistant surgeon. But he was again made health officer in the SMC in 2013. And before holding the charge of GB Pant hospital, Dr Shafqat was an immunisation officer in Pulwama.
Reacting to these charges, Dr Shafqat retorted, “Whoever finds me an ineligible candidate, tell those buggers to shut up (sic). The government has taken the decision to put me here.”
Another case of an ineligible candidate holding a senior position is that of Mission Director, National Rural Health Mission, Dr Yashpal Sharma. According to government rules, a Mission Director has to be an IAS officer, which Dr Yashpal is not.
Dr Yashpal, who was a deputy medical superintendent in SMGS hospital Jammu, has done his masters in hospital administration from AIIMS. He was then an OSD to the then-minister Mangat Ram Sharma.
With the retirement of Dr Kulbushan Pandotra who was the Director Health Family Welfare, and was also holding the additional charge of Mission Director NRHM, Dr Yashpal took over the latter role on the orders of health minister Mangat Ram Sharma, and his order as OSD was withdrawn.
“It has been five years, the government has not yet been able to find an eligible candidate who can take up the job. We have some doctors who are experienced IAS officers, but I don’t understand why they aren’t given the position,” says a health officer on condition of anonymity. “Recently, we heard the health minister Lal Singh was going to relieve Dr Yashpal from his post. But Dr Yashpal organised some health camps in the minister’s village, and since then he is on the latter’s favourite list,” he adds.
Defending himself, Dr Yashpal says the “Government has chosen me as Mission Director. I haven’t chosen myself. As far as organising these camps is concerned we do it everywhere.” When told that there were IAS officers who could have taken the post, Dr Yashpal replied, “No, there are states where doctors are made Mission Directors, it (being an IAS officer) is not necessary.”
Another case is that of Dr Sandeep Singh, who was an assistant surgeon in GMC Jammu and then became registrar of orthopaedics and was then appointed as registrar of paramedical council/nursing council in addition to his own duties, till further orders. He also holds the charge of specialist, sports rehabilitation.
“He is a junior doctor and there are many deserving doctors and administrators who deserve the chair. It looks as if seniority doesn’t matter in the medical profession now,” said an official at GMC Srinagar.
Earlier Dr Waseem Qureshi, registrar academics, was holding the additional charge, handling the paramedical council. He resigned two months ago and the health minister gave the job to Dr Sandeep.
“Dr Sandeep is one of the persons close to the health minister, which is the reason he was appointed to this higher position which, being a junior, he doesn’t deserve,” said a source.