Bihar moves to terminate 7 health staff for irregularities in Covid-19 testing
- The department had earlier on Friday suspended four health officials of Jamui, including its civil surgeon, the district immunisation officer and two medical officers in-charge of the health facilities at the two blocks.
The Bihar government has initiated the process of termination against seven health officials in Jamui while serving show-cause notices to four other doctors in Araria district over alleged irregularities in Covid-19 testing, as it put up a brave front and said that the entire state and its corona warriors should not be discredited for a few black sheep in the system.
Addressing the media on Saturday, Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Pratyaya Amrit said that barring Barhat and Sikandra blocks of Jamui district, no such glaring anomalies were found in the ongoing investigation in 26 districts so far.
“Investigators had found many fake entries of people, who either did not exist or were not tested, but their name figured in the testing list with incorrect mobile numbers at Barhat and Sikandra blocks,” said Amrit, sharing the crux of the investigation being undertaken by district magistrates as well as independent teams of the health department.
“We have initiated the process of termination against the district programme manager of Jamui, a block health manager each of Barhat and Sikandra, two auxiliary nursing midwives and a laboratory technician in each of the two blocks for the glaring lapses,” he said.
The department had earlier on Friday suspended four health officials of Jamui, including its civil surgeon, the district immunisation officer and two medical officers in-charge of the health facilities at the two blocks.
Amrit said incongruity in mobile numbers of those tested had been found in Araria and Forbesganj towns as well as Purnahiya block of Sheohar. However, unlike Barhat and Sikandra, people in these towns were tested, but the mismatch was in their mobile number.
“Out of 4,504 samples taken in Araria, there were 275 entries that mentioned 10 times ‘0’ and 522 entries with 10 times ‘1’ under the mobile number column against the name of the person tested in Forbesganj town,” he said.
“Showcause notices have been served on in-charge superintendent of Sadar hospital, Araria; deputy superintendent sub-divisional hospital, Forbesganj, and medical officers in-charge of primary health centres at Araria and Forbesganj for dereliction of duty,” said Amrit.
When our investigators asked the healthcare workers responsible for the lapses, they said that people who came for testing were not keen to share their mobile numbers. They also said that there was no way they could verify the mobile numbers which people shared with them.
Replying to a question on difference in prices of rapid antigen testing kits procured by the state government last July and January this year, managing director Bihar Medical Services Infrastructure Limited Pradeep Kumar Jha said, “One kit cost ₹504 when purchase was done on July 9 and the same now costs ₹42.47.”
Explaining the difference in price, he said, “The Indian Council of Medical Research had approved only one firm for purchase of testing kits in July, whereas 18 firms had now got the ICRM nod. All purchases, he said was made through the government e-market (GeM) place, hosted by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D).
The government had asked district magistrates to conduct random inquiry in two to four blocks of their respective districts by physically verifying the persons mentioned in the testing list to check for inconsistencies in Covid-19 testing.
The government action follows a news report, which claimed that in several cases, the mobile numbers of those tested were owned by unrelated people from other districts or states; in some cases, mobile numbers listed were invalid, in others; multiple unrelated persons were listed under one number. In a few cases, numbers used were those of the primary health centre staffers themselves, pointing to basic data protocol being bypassed to meet the daily testing target, and in some cases to allegedly siphon off profits from unused testing kits, the report said.
OTP based RT-PCR tests
The Bihar health department had suggested one-time password (OTP)-based testing to curb any further anomalies in Covid-19 testing.
Bihar’s principal secretary, health, Pratyaya Amrit said, “We will introduce in the next few days OTP based testing in case of RT-PCR tests, while allowing rapid antigen tests to be conducted only at health facilities to check any future inconsistency or mismatch in mobile number and the name of the person tested.”