Wednesday, June 20, 2001, Chandigarh, India



Occasional lapses apart, PGI is not that heartless

Apropos the letter. "PGI: a heartless hospital?" (June 6). From time to time angry patients, their relatives and friends have aired dissatisfaction with the working and services available at the PGI, Chandigarh.

Granted that some of the grievances may have a basis many though turn out to be either perceived or a result of very high expectations which is not fair considering the tremendous pressure and workload under which these men and women have to not just perform, but "show only the baby, not the labour pains."

The quality of work in an institution does not depend entirely on the quantity and quality of facilities available. More often than not, it is the human factor that gives an institution its character.

During a lecture he delivered in my department (genetics) at the University of Cambridge, England, Nobel laureate. M.H.F. Wilkins (co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of double helical structure of the DNA) shared the following anecdote with his audience.

After World War II, Sir Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of pencillin's anti-bacterial effect, was invited to visit one of the well-equipped modern laboratories in the USA. A visibly proud young scientist of that institute asked, "Dr Fleming, don't you wish you had the opportunity to work in one of our modern labs, when you discovered pencillin's anti-bacterial effect?"


Sir Alexander's nonchalant reply was, "Had I been working in one of your well-equipped, fully air-conditioned labs, rest assured I would not have discovered penicillin."

It became known later that it was indeed a chance discovery that led to the finding of the miracle drug. Fleming was known to be a meticulous and diligent worker, and a patient observer.

So despite basic facilities available to him in his Oxford laboratory, it was his own skills that paid off. Prof Wilkins went on to add that it was more the quality of men and women who worked in and for an institute that made it worthy, not the bricks, mortar or the availability of equipment therein. How true!

The PGI, Chandigarh, has often been at the receiving end of people's wrath for not having done enough for their patients. Whereas the anger of family and friends of patients may not be always unfounded, it cannot be said to be always fully rational either. The PGI is primarily a teaching hospital, not a referral hospital. It is being forced to cater to the population of most of North India.

Despite the magnitude of workload it has to handle, is it not remarkable how most of the PGI staff, especially its doctors, are able to keep performing and giving their best as is humanly possible under constantly demanding circumstances? Howsoever undesirable, occasional lapses are unavoidable under such conditions. In the normal course these would constitute inadvertant part of any high pressure profession.

I would like to share a pleasant experience I had not long ago at the PGI's emergency ward. We were finding it hard shifting a patient of ours who was quite heavy onto a bed from the stretcher trolley. A senior doctor, accompanied by his group of residents, was on rounds. On seeing our predicament, the gentleman came along saying to his students, "Come, let's help them and gain another experience." How very helpful and refreshing was his attitude.

It shows the human side of a thorough professional comfortably in love with his work, despite it being extremely demanding in nature most of the time. How I wish I had found out the name of the gentleman, and had the time and the sense to appreciate his kind gesture earlier. Surely it is the quality of the men and women working in an institute, and the kind of work they do which makes an institution great.


VVIP treatment

Occasionally, we come across news items that so and so minister underwent a surgery in a foreign country for the removal of cataract, cyst etc. Such a small surgery in a foreign country involves a very heavy expenditure in the shape of outflow of hard-earned foreign currency and a heavy unwanted burden on the exchequer of a poor country.

Moreover, going to a foreign country for a small surgical operation has a direct bearing on the competency and expertise of the Indian medical profession. Indians are known all over the world for providing medical expertise and knowhow to other countries. Our VVIPs must have faith in their own people and not simply talk of "swadeshi" goods services but must practise them in their day-to-day life.

H. K. SHARMA, Nawanshahr



Quota for defence kids

To recognise the contribution and sacrifices of defence personnel, as also to offset the handicap of turbulent and difficult service conditions, reservations for their children for entrance to educational institutions have been made. Panjab University, either by lack of knowledge or design, has relegated serving defence personnel to the lowest priority in the reserved quota even below retired officers.

Consider this example. A serving soldier with 30 years of service posted in Siachen or Kashmir valley is considered less important than say a person who went home with 20 years service and is now settled in a metro. This is not to deride the ex-soldiers, which all serving soldiers will be one day.

There are more aberrations. only PVC/MVC/VrC are recognised as gallantry awards. Ashok Chakra/Kirti Chakra/Shurya Chakra, which are their equivalents, and the Yudh Seva Medal series are of no value. Consequently the child of a soldier decorated with any of these awards and still battling the icy heights or militants is of least consequence.

My husband was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal in the Kargil war, when much was made of our valiant soldiers. To my knowledge he is the only awardee of this medal during the Kargil conflict from this city, but his son must still stand last in the queue. Does this nation and the city really care for its heroes?


Pensioners’ request

The central government issued orders on December 17, 1998 that in the case of the employees retiring after 33 years of service, the amount of pension would not be less than 50 per cent of the minimum of the revised pay scale of the post held at the time of retirement. Several state governments issued similar orders. The Punjab Government, which has been generally following the central government in such matters, was requested by various associations of Punjab pensioners to issue similar orders, but nothing has been done so far even after two and a half years.

When the Haryana Government issued such orders on January 18, 2000, the Punjab Government came under obligation, as per the Reorganisation Act 1966, to pay to the Haryana Government 60 per cent of the pensionary expenditure of Haryana pensioners for their pre-1966 service, even though the Punjab Government has not granted this concession to its own pensioners.

In the case of the Punjab Government, therefore charity does not begin at home. It begins and ends with the neighbour's wife. If the Punjab Government also grants this concession to its pensioners, it would be able to recover from the Haryana Government 40 per cent of the pensionary expenditure of Punjab pensioners for their pre-1966 service. The Finance Minister of Punjab should not hesitate to accept this genuine request of the Punjab pensioners.


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