VIJAYAWADA: As part of the investigation into the fire mishap at hotel Swarna Palace on August 9, the Vijayawada police questioned Dr Mamatha of Ramesh Hospitals, Guntur branch on Friday. It may be mentioned that Vijayawada South Zone police served notices on Dr Mamatha, daughter-in-law of former Guntur MP Rayapati Sambasiva Rao, and nine others, including family members of absconding Ramesh Hospitals Managing Director Pothineni Ramesh Babu under Section 160 of the CrPC on Thursday instructing them to appear before the investigating officer (IO).
South Zone Assistant Commissioner of Police N Surya Chandra Rao took statements from Dr Mamatha pertaining to the accident, the alleged role of her family in roping in the hotel belonging to M Srinivasa Rao in Vijayawada for running COVID-19 Care Centres (CCC) and referring COVID-19 patients to Vijayawada Ramesh Hospitals and collecting exorbitant fee for treatment. “We are probing into the exorbitant fee collected by Ramesh Hospitals and the agreement between the Swarna Palace and the hospital,” the ACP said.
“We have filed a petition in the Vijayawada Magistrate Court seeking police custody of the three arrested in the case so far. The hearing in the case will be taken up on Monday. We have the authority to arrest those not responding to the notices served on them under Section 171 of CrPC,” he added.Dr Mamatha, along with her husband Rayapati Ranga Rao, reached the South Zone ACP office around 10 am and the police interrogated the couple for more than six hours.
Mamatha told TNIE she is nowhere connected to the case and reiterated that her role is limited to human resources and administrative activities of the Guntur branch. She said she didn’t refer any COVID-19 patient either to Ramesh Hospitals or the CCC being run at Swarna Palace. “I was away from duties for a month as I tested positive for COVID-19. I do not know on what basis the police served notices on me as I was unaware of the agreement between the hotel and Vijayawada branch hospital,” she claimed.
Mamatha alleged that the police and the government are intentionally targeting her family by including their names and said she will fight against them in the court of law. “Since they served notices on me, I appeared before the IO to give my statement,” she added.Her husband Rayapati Ranga Rao said, “The police are inconveniencing Mamatha by questioning her, who is still under medication, by grilling her for more than six hours.”
“Before questioning us, the police should question the Collector, DM&HO, Corporation officials and fire department on what basis they accorded permissions to the hospital for running the CCC in the hotel. They should inspect the hotel before issuing permits. They are also equally responsible for the mishap,” he pointed out.
However, sources in the police department said Mamatha and her family played a major role in Ramesh Hospitals entering into an agreement with the Swarna Palace as the hotel owner is her close relative. She referred over 10 patients, who were admitted to Guntur branch hospital, to Vijayawada and collected exorbitant fee from them, they alleged.
After the mishap, the government formed three committees to probe and study factors pertaining to the accident. One panel, headed by JC L Siva Shankar, submitted its report on the lapses on part of the hospital with regard to safety norms, which caused the mishap and collection of exorbitant fee. The second committee, headed by Aarogyasri CEO Dr Annam Mallikarjuna Yadav, is to inspect COVID hospitals/CCCs and quarantine centres and the third committee, headed by AP Fire Department DG Md Ahsan Reza, is yet to submit its report.