After warning, Meerut hospital apologizes for discriminating patients on the basis of religion

The hospital had put out an ad saying it would only admit Muslim patients if they brought a certificate saying they were tested negative for Covid-19

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The Valentis Cancer Hospital in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh which had put out an advertisement asking Muslim patients and their caretakers to come to the hospital only if they had a medical certificate proving they had tested negative for Covid-19, has now apologized.

ANI News reported Dr. Amit Jain, radio oncologist at the hospital as saying, “The advertisement was an appeal to all the people to follow the government guidelines so that everyone stays safe. It has nothing to do with religion. We apologize as some word hurt people’s sentiments. The hospital never intended to hurt anyone’s sentiments.”

This however sounds like a half-baked apology given how the advertisement had minced no words while singling out members of the Muslim community. The Valentis Cancer Hospital which has 50 beds catering to the population around Meerut, including Mawana, Sardhana and Muzaffarnagar, had put out an advertisement last week in a Hindi daily Dainik Jagran that it would no longer accept Muslim patients unless they and their caretakers come with test results showing they are negative for Covid-19, reported The Wire.

The entire ad by the hospital, which was apparently issued in the larger public interest and also in the interest of Muslim ‘brothers’, is as below. It was put out despite the Central government’s recent, though quite hollow, advisory asking people to not label any community or area for the spread of Covid-19.

Apart from the out and out directive issued to Muslim patients, it sought to allay the brunt of the order by saying that it would accept (Muslim) patients in case of emergency but they would be tested for Covid-19 immediately and the cost of the test, Rs. 4,500 would be taken from the patient. It also said that the order doesn’t apply to Muslim doctors, paramedics, judges, police personnel, teachers and those who don’t live in densely populated areas.

The reason the hospital had stated to put out such an ad was the alleged misbehaviour of the members of the Tablighi Jamaat who had contributed to the spread of the virus in the country. Dr. Amit Jain told The Wire, “All but two cases in Meerut are connections of the Tablighi Jamaat. It is quite clear in Meerut that all the Covid cases are coming from Muslim dominated localities. So, it is easy to identify them. It proves to be a risk for all other patients and the staff if Muslims from densely populated areas are allowed to come into the hospital without tests.”

However, according to the information released by the directorate of health services of Lucknow on April 18, 46 patients out of the 70 patients tested from Meerut for Covid-19 were connected to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering.

Jain also categorically clarified to The Wire that the need for people from religions other than Islam living in Muslim dominated localities to get tested, would not apply. He had said, “In any case there are very few others in these localities. I am not saying that people from other religions cannot get the disease. But the reality is that almost all patients are Muslims coming from densely populated Muslim areas.”

“We are only saying that Muslims coming from hotspot areas have to come with a negative test result. This is for their safety only and the safety of all our patients. We are not doing this to discriminate on the basis of religion. We treat Muslim brothers on a daily basis,” Jain had said, probably in a bid to save face.

The advertisement by the hospital grossly violates the National Human Rights Commission charter of patient’s rights that is adopted by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Point no. 8 of the charter – the Right to Non-Discrimination says that every patient has the right to receive treatment without any discrimination based on his or her illness conditions (including HIC status or other health conditions), religion, caste, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation and linguistic or geographical / social origins.

Not only this, it also violates point no. 4 of the declaration every doctor in India is supposed to sign under the Indian Medical Council (Professional Conduct, Etiquette and Ethics) Regulations 2002 which reads – “I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics or social standing to intervene between my duty and my patient.”

It was only following the Meerut district administration’s warning to issue an apology, failing which the hospital’s license be suspended, did the hospital issue a statement apologizing for its words.

The Meerut district administration on Sunday directed the hospital to tender an apology, or its license would be suspended. Meerut Chief Medical Officer Raj Kumar said, “By discriminating on the basis of religion the hospital has violated medical ethics. We will issue a notice to the hospital and it will have to issue offer a public apology. If it doesn’t do so its license will be suspended for discriminating on the basis of religion.”

Meanwhile, Meerut SSP Ajay Kumar Sahni said, “We have registered a case. We are taking action as per the evidence available.”


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