Pintu Kumar Singh, a resident of Korari village in Nalanda district around 100km southeast of Patna, was waiting from early morning on Monday for a doctor to check his relative Rina Devi at the Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS).
"I came here for registration of my patient at around 9.30am but our turn has still not come," Pintu said. The clock showed 2pm.
Pintu claimed there were several "VIP patients" who did not have to wait outside at the neurology section of the out patient department (OPD) like him and were called inside the doctor's chamber even though they reached later than him. "Commoners" like Pintu, however, had to wait patiently in queue.
This is at the same hospital that deputed three senior doctors and two nurses for nine days - from May 31 to June 8 - at 10 Circular Road, where RJD chief Lalu Prasad lives with his family including his two minister sons, at the "request" of health minister Tej Pratap Yadav.
Manoj Kumar from Muzaffarpur, who brought his sister-in-law to the urology department's OPD, had a similar experience to narrate.
"There is no counting of the serial number of patients happening over here unlike the adjoining OPDs of the other departments here including gastro-enterology," said Manoj. "The patients are being called inside the doctor's chamber according to 'priority'. I have brought my patient here at around 10am but we have not been called inside and it is already 2pm. Doctors are attending to those people first who have come with some kind of recommendation.
"How can it be ethical for doctors to give preference to VIPs in treatment?" Manoj asked.
Abhishek Kumar from Jogiya Toli in the state capital, who had brought his nephew Monu to the urology department's OPD, also rued the "VIP culture" prevalent at the hospital. The problem is not restricted to the OPD section. Some patients said under cover of anonymity that the preferential treatment to some extended also when getting admitted in the indoor wings of the hospital.
"You first tell me where you wouldn't find this VIP culture," he said when The Telegraph pointed out the patients' plight. "Be it AIIMS Delhi, AIIMS Patna, PMCH or any other set-up, you would find this VIP culture. You are asking me a very vague question. Please don't waste my time asking these types of questions. Talk to me about bypass surgery, kidney transplant, eye bank-related developments at IGIMS instead."
Senior IGIMS doctors, however, said the "VIP culture" was a consequence of limitations.
"IGIMS has very limited beds in the indoor wing," a senior doctor said under cover of anonymity for obvious reasons. "We are not like Patna Medical College and Hospital where patients can be treated even on the floors if there is bed crisis. We don't admit patients like that. As there is a crisis of beds in the indoor wing, obviously we get pairavi (recommendations) from people to get their acquaintances admitted in the hospital and we cannot deny them as they come from influential people."
Biswas accepted that there was a severe crisis of beds in the hospital's indoor wing and said work on the expansion of the hospital infrastructure had been initiated.
The Opposition on Tuesday targeted health minister Tej Pratap for ensuring special treatment from IGIMS.
Senior BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi alleged that sons of the RJD boss were doing things as per their whims.
if Lalu's condition was so serious that he needed round-the-clock medical attention, he should have been shifted to IGIMS instead of doctors from the hospital being deputed at his residence, Modi said.
"Had he been hospitalised, the doctors who attended to him for eight days at his home could have served other patients also who come in large numbers to the hospital," the BJP leader said.
IGIMS, however, stuck to its stand that the doctors had not been deputed full-time at 10 Circular Road and that they had only gone to check on the patient without affecting their regular duty at the hospital. The hospital had earlier also provided such services to VIPs on humanitarian grounds, said an IGIMS press note.
"Health minister Tej Pratap Yadav didn't issue any directive for deputation of doctors at the residence of Lalu Prasad," claimed JDU spokesperson Niraj Kumar, adding that if "someone" issued the order for deputation of doctors it was for the health department officials to ascertain whether rules had been adhered to or not.
Niraj also refused to accept that deputing doctors at a politician's residence was a question of ethics and maintained that it was simply a question of rules and only senior officials of the health department could answer whether the rules were followed or not.
Asked whether the JDU would demand a probe into the incident, Niraj said: "As the report has come out in media, the health department officials must have seen it and would decide what to do in the matter."
IGIMS medical superintendent Prabhat Kumar Sinha had, however, told The Telegraph on Monday: "We had got a request from the health minister to depute doctors for one of his relatives who was said to be suffering from high fever."