Suspension Scandal: Delhi Health Minister's Aide Under Fire

Delhi's Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj's Officer on Special Duty, R N Das, has been suspended for alleged irregularities in registering private nursing homes. The suspension follows a fire incident at a nursing home in Vivek Vihar that led to the death of six newborns. Bharadwaj claims political targeting.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 29-05-2024 22:37 IST | Created: 29-05-2024 22:37 IST
Suspension Scandal: Delhi Health Minister's Aide Under Fire
Saurabh Bharadwaj
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Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena on Wednesday suspended Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj's Officer on Special Duty (OSD) R N Das for his alleged ''involvement in irregular and illegal registration of private nursing homes'' including the one in Vivek Vihar where six newborns were killed in a fire, officials said.

Reacting to the development, Bharadwaj alleged that the LG was targeting advisors, consultants and others, appointed by the AAP government, to make the ''offices empty'' and cripple the functioning of departments.

Das said he does not have much information about his suspension and refused to comment further.

In the order issued on Wednesday, the Vigilance Directorate said, ''The Hon'ble Lt. Governor, Delhi, in the exercise of the powers conferred by sub-rule (1) of Rule-10 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965, hereby, places the said Dr. R.N. Das, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Hon'ble Minister (Health), GNCTD, under suspension with immediate effect.'' In a letter to Anti Corruption Branch(ACB) the directorate also said that Lt Governor, has directed the agency to undertake an ''urgent comprehensive enquiry'' into the registration of Nursing Homes under Delhi Nursing Home Registration Act, 1953 and Rules and submit an action taken report by June 5.

The LG had on Tuesday ordered a comprehensive ACB probe into the registration and regulatory management of all private nursing homes in the city, noting that the hospital fire tragedy had brought out the mismanagement, criminal neglect and connivance'' of officials of the Health Department.

''The immediate cause for placing the officer under suspension is on account of reported misconduct with regard to unauthorised and illegal running of Jyoti Nursing Home, Shahadra beyond the valid registration period when he was also Medical Superintendent of Nursing Home Cell,'' an official said.

The fire incident at the Baby Care Centre at Vivek Vihar on May 25 is the recent instance of callousness on the part of the Nursing Home Cell, officials alleged.

''Here also Dr. R.N. Das had allowed the registration of the Nursing Home without bothering to ascertain the pending litigation status as well as the undertaking given by the Nursing Home w.r.t. various statutory compliances including fire safety,'' an official said.

These incidents point towards the fact that Das, who was also OSD to the former health minister Satyendra Jain, has ''clearly abused his powers, the official said.

Das was posted in the Nursing Home Cell from January 10, 2011, to May 18, 2015 and January 31, 2018, to September 2, 2022.

The BJP had alleged Das's role in the registration process of the neonatal hospital in Vivek Vihar that was allegedly running despite the expiry of its licence.

Earlier last month, Das was issued a show cause notice by the Directorate of Vigilance in connection with the alleged irregularities in the procurement of various items like Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits, gloves, masks and Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits worth around Rs 60 crore during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.

Bharadwaj claimed his other OSDs in the departments of Urban Development, Jal Board, and DSIIDC have also been removed.

''All the OSDs' and secretaries working at my office are facing attempts to frame them in some or the other inquiry against them. None of the cases belong to my tenure. They are rigging old cases and suspending them. In the name of inquiry the person will continue to remain suspended,'' he said in a press conference.

''They have either suspended or removed them under the guise of inquiry because the LG wants to empty my workplace. Constant attempts are being made by the LG's office to remove my officers,'' he charged.

Officials said there was a complaint that a nursing home Jyoti Clinic & Nursing Home' located at B-32, East Jyoti Nagar- had been ''illegally and unlawfully'' running despite the cancellation of its registration on a November 27, 2018 order issued by the Director General of Health Services.

It was alleged that the management of the nursing home had applied for renewal of its license in the year 2014, which was kept pending by the officials of the Directorate of Health Services (DGHS) that helped to run it in an unauthorised manner for a long time without a valid license.

Nursing homes are issued licences for a three-year period.

''In the matter, an enquiry was conducted by the Health Department that concluded Dr RN Das, the then medical superintendent (Nursing Home Cell) and OSD to Health Minister was solely responsible for renewal of registration of the clinic,'' said an official.

The Vigilance Directorate in a separate letter to the secretary of Bharadwaj on Wednesday stated that the Lt Governor has taken a very serious view on the fire incident at Vivek Vihar hospital and flagged the ''total absence of ministerial oversight in the regulatory management of private health facilities''.

The LG has observed that the ''whole episode has brought out the sheer mismanagement, criminal neglect and connivance'' of officials of the Health Department, in granting and renewing registrations of nursing homes, the department said.

At the same time, it puts a serious question mark on the ministerial responsibility, in a matter directly related to the health and lives of hapless residents of Delhi,'' said the letter.

Further, the LG stated even after a tragedy of this magnitude, which should have stirred the conscience of ''political leadership'', he was disappointed that the chief minister and minister ''paid only lip service and given sound bites, finding alibis and shirking responsibility''.

He said the administration cannot be run on social media, nor by brushing such serious matters under the carpet, the letter quoted the LG as saying.

There are 1,190 nursing homes in Delhi of which more than a quarter are operating without a valid registration. Also, there are many nursing homes in the city that have never applied for a registration but are still operating, the LG claimed.

''The very existence of such nursing homes that serve the poor and not so well of sections of the society, speaks volumes on the larger issue of severe lack of public health infrastructure in the national capital,'' Saxena was quoted as saying in the Vigilance directorate letter.

This is a larger issue that has been left neglected, contrary to the claims in the public domain, he added.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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