BHU cardiology head protests against corruption within institute, completes 13 days of hunger strike

Dr Om Shankar from the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has been protesting for 13 days as the administration despite repeated orders did not improve the department's condition
"Fast Unto Death" - Thirteenth Day
"Fast Unto Death" - Thirteenth Day (Source: EdexLive Desk)

Today, May 23, marked Dr Om Shankar's thirteenth day of fasting unto death at Sri Sunder Lal Hospital (SSLH). The Head of the Cardiology Department at the Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) chose a rather difficult method to protest against the hollow promises of the administration to improve the prevailing conditions of the Cardiology Department at IMS, BHU.

Dr Shankar, who is also a social activist, and works for the cause of the poor and the marginalised, is bringing attention to the poor prevailing conditions in the hospital.

Conversation with Dr Om Shankar
"My demands go beyond the vicinity of the hospital. The events occurring in the hospital reflect the poor condition of the medical infrastructure in the country. Right to Health and Right to Education are my demands now, when the whole country is voting and choosing their new government," says Dr Shankar, who is on his thirteenth day of hunger strike.

As a medical practitioner and a firm believer in social justice, he says that his hunger strike transgresses the realm of the hospital where there is bureaucratic corruption everywhere.

Blaming the autocratic condition of the institute, he told EdexLive that the medical superintendent of the university has surpassed his tenure, yet, he still has been holding to his position for about ten years.

"While beds remained vacant, they were not allocated to the cardiology department. As BHU's cardiology department is one of the best and the busiest, almost 35,000 patients lost their lives as they could not receive the treatment on time," said Dr Om Shankar.

One of his demands remains that a fair and transparent investigation be held so that the accused can be penalised as per their deed (which he termed as crimes). Additionally, he warranted that the Department of Cardiology be well-equipped, as per the order.
Support comes inDr Kiran Kumar Gowd, President of the All India OBC Students Association (AIOBCSA) was at the protest spot to show his solidarity towards the protesting doctor he paid a visit to BHU, Varanasi.

According to Gowd, Dr Shankar is fighting for the basic qualitative services a government hospital should be equipped with. "Dr Om Shankar is fighting for a good cause. Several patients do not even have access to a hospital bed, they are lying outside the ward. This issue is certainly not only limited to this hospital. but the whole country. This is what Dr Om wants to bring attention to," said the AIOBCSA president.

Genesis of the issue
IMS, BHU despite undergoing a renovation and an infrastructure expansion with the funds received from the Central Government, was unable to establish a larger functional Cardiology Department. EdexLive spoke to Dr Krishnakant, who is among the protesting doctors, an Assistant Professor at BHU, who gave an insight into Dr Om's long struggle.

According to Dr Krishna Kant, Dr Om Shankar has been appealing to the Vice-Chancellor (VC) SK Jain and the director of the university to improve the existing cardiology facilities for the last two years. On August 30, a five-member committee was formed to look into the affairs, wherein, after finding ingenuity in Dr Shankar's claims, they recommended that, "The entire fourth floor and half of the fifth floor of CSSB be allocated to the cardiology department," added Dr Krishna Kant.

Five months have passed since the recommendation, with no trailing action, Dr Om Shankar decided to go on an indefinite hunger strike from March 8.

With a seemingly threatening situation on their hands, the authority after a detailed discussion with the Medical Superintendent of SSLH, Dr PK Gupta, and the Head of the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery (CTVS) decided upon the following points (according to an official order dated March 8, 2024):

- The vacant ward on the fourth floor of CSSB, IMS, BHU to be allocated to the Department of Cardiology with immediate effect

- The Minor OT (operation theatre) (on the fifth floor) to be reallocated to the Department of Cardiology, IMS, BHU.

- As many as 24 beds from the CTVS ward on the fourth floor to be shifted to the fifth floor, and 17 beds from the Coronary Care Unit (CCU) to be shifted from the fifth floor to the fourth floor.

"It is now May 23, and the order was passed on March 8 and yet, there have not been any advancements, the corruption of the officials is now clearly evident," stated Dr Krishna Kant.

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