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Mumbai: ‘BMC ignored warnings of severe understaffing’

Updated on: 03 October,2023 07:34 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Faizan Khan |

Enforcement Directorate’s charge sheet claims Dahisar Jumbo COVID centre faced 50-60 per cent staff shortage; inaccurate invoices from the hospital management company were cleared; doctors and accountants who raised concerns were shrugged off

Mumbai: ‘BMC ignored warnings of severe understaffing’

A person is tested for COVID-19 at Dharavi. File pic

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Mumbai: ‘BMC ignored warnings of severe understaffing’

The charge sheet filed recently by the Enforcement Directorate in connection with the COVID-19 Jumbo Centers scam has claimed the orchestration of the scheme by key accused Sujit Patkar, a close associate of Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena UBT), and his partner, Dr Kishore Bisure, who served as the dean of the Dahisar Jumbo Center. Furthermore, the charge sheet claimed that despite the Assistant Medical Officers (AMOs) and accountants at the Dahisar and Worli centers raising concerns about the irregularities by Lifeline Hospital Management Services, including the deployment of 50-60 per cent fewer staff than specified in the Expression of Interest (EOI) and the submission of fraudulent invoices, senior BMC officials disregarded the warnings and continued to approve bills presented by Lifeline Hospital Management Services.

The charge sheet includes statements of doctors and accountants associated with the Dahisar Jumbo Centre. File pic
The charge sheet includes statements of doctors and accountants associated with the Dahisar Jumbo Centre. File pic

According to the charge sheet, the Assistant Medical Officer (AMO) was responsible for verifying staff attendance against the attendance records of the centre. He uncovered significant instances of understaffing and a failure to maintain the doctor-patient ratio at the Dahisar Jumbo COVID Center. He brought this issue to Dr Bisure’s attention multiple times but was advised to not to interfere and to disregard the matter, indicating that Dr. Bisure was handling things with the owners/partners of Lifeline Hospital Management Services. Later, Dr Bisure allegedly began signing the attendance sheets provided by Lifeline Hospital Management Services without verifications and without raising concerns about understaffing.

Similar claims were made by Dr. Jyoti Contractor, who was the Nodal Officer of the centre’s ICU. She, too, was allegedly advised by Dr Bisure to not interfere in the matter. On December 28, 2020, Deepa Shriyan received a WhatsApp message from Dr. Ramesh Bharmal, director of Medical Education, appointing her as the Dean, which she reluctantly accepted after Dr. Bisure’s departure. Shriyan claimed that some days saw no doctors or nurses present. Shriyan reported the discrepancies to BMC officials, including Shankarwar and Dr Bhagyashree Kapse, highlighting a shortfall of over 50-60 per cent in staff deployment.

The charge sheet also has statements of various BMC accountants. BMC accounts officer at the centre, Varsha Prasad Desai, claimed irregularities in the invoices raised by Lifeline Hospital Management Services to BMC. On her objections to the invoices, additional municipal commissioner (western suburban), Suresh Kakani called a meeting on September 13, 2020. Lifeline Hospital Management Services was asked to provide the required documents and Desai was asked to clear the invoices without all documents submitted.

According to the ED, Lifeline Hospital Management Services raised 82 invoices/bills (63 for Dahisar and 19 for Worli NSCI, Jumbo COVID facility) to the BMC, amounting to over R32.76 crore for services from July 2020 to February 2022. A penalty was levied by the BMC and invoices worth R32.44 crore were finally cleared. The ED has claimed that the full amount paid to the company is proceeds of crime.

The charge sheet has been filed against seven accused, including Patkar and Dr. Bisure. The other five individuals are Dr Hemant Gupta, Sanjay Shah, Rajive Salunkhe, who are both partners of Lifeline Management Services, and Dr Singh, who served as the head in-charge of Dahisar COVID Center, along with the entity Lifeline Management Services.

Total accused named in charge sheet

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