AHMEDABAD: A government-run hospital in Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat has segregated coronavirus patients based on their religion, claiming the order came from the government.
“Generally, there are separate wards for male and female patients. But here, we have made separate wards for Hindu and Muslim patients. It is a decision of the government and you can ask them,” Dr Gunvant H Rathod, the medical superintendent of Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, told a local daily.
Gujarat is governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which also governs the country and had been a hotbed on communal violence. Narendra Modi was the state’s chief minister for nearly thirteen straight years from 2001 before he became India’s prime minister in 2014.
The newspaper report quoted a patient as saying, “On Sunday night, the names of 28 men admitted in the first ward (A-4) were called out. We were then shifted to another ward (C-4).”
“While we were not told why we were being shifted, all the names that were called out belonged to one community. We spoke to one staff member in our ward and he said this had been done for the comfort of both communities,” he added.
According to a doctor quoted by Indian media “Certain patients from the majority community were not comfortable being in the same ward with patients of the minority community. After some patients complained, it was decided to segregate them on temporary basis,” the doctor told the newspaper on condition of anonymity.
Gujarat’s Health Minister and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has denied the reports and said that nothing of that sort had happened. “Whatever is needed to give people the best possible treatment is being done,” he said an international Doha-based media outlet.
The state’s health department issued an official statement, calling reports of separate wards for Muslims and Hindus were baseless. “Patients are kept in different wards based on their medical condition, severity of the symptoms and age, purely based on the advice of the treating doctors. Therefore, reports appearing in certain media are totally baseless and misleading,” it said.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organisation had warned against any religious profiling of coronavirus patients by governments across the world. “Having COVID-19 is not anybody’s fault. Every case is a victim. It is very important that we do not profile the cases on the basis of racial, religious and ethnic lines,” WHO’s emergency programme director Mike Ryan had said.
According to media reports, more than half of the nearly 500 cases of coronavirus in Ahmedabad have come from Muslim-majority neighbourhoods. India has charged the Tableeghi Jamaat chief Maulana Saad Kandhalvi with “culpable homicide” for organising a congregation in New Delhi.