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Gangtok: Soon after news of Mintogang, the official residence of the Sikkim chief minister, in Gangtok was converted into a COVID care centre spread there was widespread resentment among citizens. Majority were unhappy at the ‘VIP treatment being given to CM’s wife and family.’ Chief Minister Prem Singh Golay’s wife and her family had tested positive on Monday.

Krishna Kumari Rai, the chief minister’s wife, and some family members moved to Mintokgang, and the state health department set up a six-member team of doctors and nurses to monitor their health.

The notification from the Health Department signed by the Medical Superintendent of STNM Hospital on September 21, stated, “With the approval of the competent authority following doctors and nurses of STNM Hospital are hereby deputed to COVID care center in Mintokgang. They shall monitor all COVID 19 related to the Chief Minister and his family.”

Among the six health care workers, four doctors were mentioned in the notification. Cardiologist Dr. DP Rai, Pediatrician Dr. Birendra Gurung, Surgeon Dr. DB Bista, and Dr. Pujan Sharma as Medical Officer were mentioned in the list.

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Upon being asked about the development, health director-general Dr Pempa Tshering Bhutia, clarified to EastMojo, “There has been a mistake by the STNM medical Superintendent, he has issued a corrigendum that it is not a COVID care centre. It is home isolation, as CM and his family are allowed to stay in the official residence at Mintokgang. It has not been converted into a COVID-19 care centre, as wrongly stated by the medical superintendent. He has rectified the same. Home isolation is allowed these days, so they are under the same.”

Dr Pujan Sharma, a medical officer, deputed at Mintokgang, also asserted that It is not a COVID care centre but home isolation for CM’s family. However, to a question being asked on why doctors were deputed for home isolation patients, he stated, “As per VIP protocol, we are making rounds and going back to our work. We are coming and asking, and we are not dedicatedly staying but asking them from the window. It is a misconception.”

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Yet two nurses have been devoted to Mintokgang. “It is a necessity; there are patients who have diabetes, and if there is an emergency, they will have to be shifted to STNM Hospital. It is a VIP protocol,” stated Dr. Pujan.

On the deputation of senior doctors, one of whom is a cardiologist, Dr Pujan stated, “Dr DP Rai is a Cardiologist, but he is also MD Medicine, he is doing his duty as consultation for STNM still. To bring MD medicine would be trouble as he is the nodal officer for COVID. He has more responsibilities. Dr Rai is not staying here, and we are coming for rounds only. Dr DP Rai has been doing his hospital rounds despite being on VIP protocol duty. Besides, Dr Sanjay Upreti is there as a cardiologist.”

STNM Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr CS Sharma stated, “There are doctors in replacement to those that are deputed for VIP duty. They will not come to the hospital until the department thinks they are a necessity at Mintokgang. It is a departmental decision, and it is being done following state protocols. When Health Minister was COVID-19 positive, even for him, a team of doctors were deputed. “

Mintokgang had been vacant since former chief minister Pawan Chamling vacated it following his defeat in the Assembly election in April 2019. CM Golay refused to shift to the chief minister’s official residence, which he had repeatedly asserted to convert into a cancer hospital after coming to power.

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He set up a technical committee to carry out a feasibility study on cancer hospital, but for now the residence has been converted into a COVID care centre for his family.

The opposition party had a field day with the issue, with Sikkim Democratic Front party spokesperson MK Subba describing the conversion of Mintokgang into a COVID-19 care centre as ‘icing on the cake by SKM.’ He stated, “Nowhere in the country when a minister or a legislator or even a Chief Minister having tested COVID-19 positive have turned their homes into a COVID care centre. This is an excessive use of power by the SKM government. They have taken the best doctors, away from other COVID patients, and also non-COVID patients. COVID is more contagious than cancer. Does the government not know it? The public is highly disillusioned and very shocked to see this,” he added.

The SDF spokesperson further asserted that by virtue of being the chief minister’s wife, Krishna Kumari Rai is entitled to better health facility anywhere else, but Mintokgang. “It is clear that the Health Department is under the pressure of the very government it serves. There was no such notification issued for other legislators when they turned positive. Most are under home isolation, so why the special treatment to CM’s family.”

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