District-wise details of COVID-19 hospitals to be put online

Guiding light: Medical staff seen directing a patient outside a COVID ward at the LNJP hospital in New Delhi.

Guiding light: Medical staff seen directing a patient outside a COVID ward at the LNJP hospital in New Delhi.   | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Health Ministry appoints officer to compile info after being slammed by CIC order

How many COVID-19 hospitals are there in the country? Where are they located, what facilities do they have, and how can they be contacted? At a time when many patients have reported running from pillar to post to find a hospital which will treat and admit them, the Health Ministry has finally appointed a nodal officer to collect district-wise details and make it available online.

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This comes in response to a Central Information Commission (CIC) order dated June 5, after the Ministry failed to provide the information to a Right to Information applicant.

Health Ministry Deputy Secretary Saranga Dhar Nayak has been appointed as the nodal officer to “compile, collate and consolidate” the information sought and make it available online within 15 days of the receipt of the CIC order, according to an order issued by the Ministry's RTI Cell on June 15.

There have been multiple reports of COVID-19 patients being turned away from hospital after hospital, while patients suffering from other health emergencies have been refused treatment at COVID-19 centres.

“Officers from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Directorate General of Health Services and the Indian Council of Medical Research who ought to be the concerned Public Authorities having the consolidated data appeared totally clueless and tossed the responsibility of record keeping in the present instance from one Public Authority to another," observed Chief Information Commissioner Bimal Julka in his order.

RTI activist Venkatesh Nayak had requested district-wise details of the hospitals and healthcare facilities designated as COVID-19 treatment centres, including addresses and phone numbers, suggesting that the data could be mapped onto Google Maps to make it more user-friendly, similar to the initiative taken for COVID-19 testing centres. He also asked what was the criteria for designating them as COVID-19 treatment centres and details about the hospitals whose status as treatment centres had been withdrawn.

Ministers’ statements

Mr. Nayak pointed out that Central Ministers have regularly been making statements and issuing press releases on the total number of treatment centres and beds available. “If the aggregate figures are available, then where did they come from”, he asked. “During the hearing, it transpired that the representatives of public authorities had no information about the source of this data that Ministers were presenting to the public and in their discussions with state governments”.

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“It was observed by the Commission that important decisions are being made by the Governments involving huge interventions in the healthcare and daily lives of billions of people as they seek to secure social, economic and cultural well-being of its population and uphold the rule of law”, said the CIC order. “It is essential that the decisions themselves and the senior decision makers involved are thoroughly documented in order for the Governments to remain accountable both during and after the crisis for future generations to be able to learn from these actions”.

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Printable version | Jul 15, 2020 8:31:14 AM |

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