After incidents like a 54-year-old Covid positive woman dying of suicide in a hospital and a coronavirus positive cabinet minister leaving the hospital over negligence painted a grim picture of the health sector in Himachal, the state government is now going all out to save its face.
On Monday, it removed Additional Chief Secretary of Health R D Dhiman and appointed Amitabh Awasthi, Secretary Horticulture and Jal Shakti department. He will now serve as the new Health Secretary. Dhiman, now has been appointed in the agriculture department. Awasthi, had earlier served as the Deputy Director at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Chandigarh .
Dhiman, who had been handling the situation during the coronavirus pandemic has also been divested of his charge as Additional Chief Secretary Personnel.
The reshuffling in the health department was signalled by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur when he took a detailed review of the prevailing conditions in the government hospitals, and medical colleges on Sunday.
The government has been under public scrutiny after Covid patient’s suicide in Shimla’s Deen Dayal Upadhaya Hospital. Her family members had alleged that she was not even given water in the isolation ward.
“She was treated like a cattle, neglected, ill-treated and starved,“ said Narinder Kumar, her son.
Prior to this, senior most cabinet minister Mohinder Singh Thakur, who was admitted at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC) —state’s premier health institution— had left the hospital over concerns of safety and mismanagement in the hospital.
“I informed the Chief Minister as to how the patients are treated and were few left to die. Two patients died before my eyes. I thought of leaving the ward, and opting to stay at home instead of seeing death so close,“ he told reporters.
Reports of covid patients not being taken care of shook the conscience of the Chief Minister, who admitted that this can’t be allowed to go on. Some action needs to be taken and a humanitarian approach has to be applied.
He has ordered senior doctors to visit the Covid patients at least once in a day. The medical superintendents have also been told to take minimum two rounds of the hospital wards, particularly coronavirus patients, twice in a day. The family members of the patients are kept updated and proper facilities like hot water and nutritious diet are to be ensured to all the patients recovering from the disease.
Insiders inform that the Chief Minister was unhappy with the conditions in the hospitals and the message going to the public was highly damaging to the reputation of the government hospitals.
Earlier, viral video clips on social media from Dharamshala, Una, Mandi and Solan districts exposed poor conditions of the hospitals that rang alarm bells.
The opposition has waged an attack against the government over its inability to handle the coronavirus crisis and check its spread. The death toll in the state has already exceeded 175 of which nearly 100 died this month.