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Dope test of all Punjab govt employees will take a year; chief secretary to finalise plan

The health department has pegged the cost of the entire operation at Rs 25 crore.

punjab Updated: Jul 18, 2018 09:44 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Dope test,Punjab govt,Punjab
The Punjab health department has devised standard operating procedure (SOP), as per which the hospitals will accept urine samples four days a week .(Image courtesy: Shutterstock)

It will take an entire year and 65 government hospitals at district and tehsil levels to conduct dope tests of more than 3.5 lakh lakh employees of the Punjab government and possibly another 50,000 of its allied bodies.

The Punjab health department has devised standard operating procedure (SOP), as per which the hospitals will accept urine samples four days a week. It had earlier decided on two days a week. “But finding it too long a time of two years to cover all the employees, we have decided to make pathology labs in hospitals stay open for receiving samples four days a week,” additional chief secretary, health, Satish Chandra told HT.

The SOP has been sent to chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh for issuing guidelines for a roadmap.

After the issue of drug addiction came under the spotlight again after a series of deaths purportedly due to overdose, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh a fortnight ago announced mandatory dope test for all the government employees, who number close to 3.5 lakh. It is yet to be decided if employees of boards and corporations are also to be included; they number at least 50,000.

Though the proposal came under criticism from opposition Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), whose leaders said that putting women too under the test will be humiliating, the CM has stuck to the stand and asked the chief secretary to make the action plan. The CM argued that dope test is done in armed forces, too, irrespective of gender. He offered himself for a test after a demand was raised by the state employees’ union, and asked his ministers and Congress MLAs to take their own decision.

The health department has pegged the cost of the entire operation at Rs 25 crore; each kit costs Rs 450 (including the logistic charges), against Rs 1,500 for the test cost at private laboratories. “The monetary cost may not be huge, but it involves a lot of administrative intervention. It remains to be seen how it’s done seamlessly, as the department is also running several state and national programmes,” said a senior government doctor on the condition of anonymity.

Staff testing positive will be treated, not sacked

Announced a fortnight ago after drug menace hit headlines again, dope tests covering all Punjab government staff will entail a massive administrative exercise

  • What will the dope test check?

Presence of drugs – morphine, codeine, D-propoxyphene, benzodiazepines, cannabinol, barbiturates, cocaine, amphetamines, buprenophine, and tramadol

  • How will it be done?

Government department will send list of employees to civil surgeon and medical superintendent in a prescribed form. On the given date, employees report to the hospital with a self-declaration of drug history, if any

  • How will employees get report?

Test reports of employees testing negative will be sent to their departments. Those testing positive will undergo the test again in a week. If the report is positive again, the employee will be referred to PGI, Chandigarh, or the state forensic sciences laboratory for a confirmatory test

  • What if found positive?

The employee will be sent to a psychiatrist for treatment but will not be placed under suspension or expelled. The report will be kept confidential and sent to his/her department.

Who foots the bill,and other questions

  • Who pays for the test? Will the employees themselves do so or will they be reimbursed? Will the finance department allocate a one-time grant to the health department?
  • Who goes for the test first? Will senior officials take the lead?
  • How will the government deal with stigma employees testing positive face?

First Published: Jul 18, 2018 09:44 IST