India

Coronavirus: MP gets new Health chief; rights panel seeks reply

Coronavirus: MP gets new Health chief; rights panel seeks reply
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan. (File Photo/Representational)

On a day the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) asked Madhya Pradesh government to explain why bureaucrats working with the Health Department were not moved to hospital isolation wards after testing positive for COVID-19, and what action has been taken against officials who failed to do so, the state government late on Tuesday gave Additional Chief Secretary Mohammed Suleman the charge of Health Department.

The 1989-batch IAS officer is senior to Pallavi Jain Govil, the 1994-batch officer who held the responsibility until Tuesday and is one of the officers who have tested positive.

Her decision to continue at work even on Sunday has been criticised by Congress leaders in the state.

A government spokesman said Govil has not been removed. “She is unavailable because she has tested positive,” he said. The government had kept a second line of officers ready for any such eventuality, the spokesperson said.

Sudama Khade,a 2006-batch officer, was made director (health).

Health Commissioner Faiz Ahmed Kidwai said a probe has been ordered on how so many staff in the Health Directorate got infected with the virus.

Earlier in the day, SHRC asked the government to reply by 5 pm Thursday. It sought details such as date and time of their test reports, why the officials were not moved to isolation wards immediately after testing positive, the number of other Health officials who were in touch with them, details of district officials responsible for admitting them, and action taken against such officials.

An IAS officer, part of the team tasked to deal with drugs, equipments and logistics, tested positive last Wednesday. Then Principal Secretary (Health) Govil subsequently tested positive. She continued to work, stating that her health was fine.

Unlike others who tested positive, the district administration did not paste the “do not visit” notice on homes of senior officials. While Govil and another officer moved to a hospital after being asked by the Chief Secretary, a deputy director relented only when threatened with suspension.

Govil told The Indian Express on Tuesday that she was still working (from isolation room) because she is fit and showed no symptoms. She said hospital beds are precious and should be reserved for those with need them the most.

On the charge that she refused to get admitted, Govil said she was disciplined and complied with the chief secretary’s instructions on hospitalisation.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?