L-G orders ACB probe into nursing homes' registration after east Delhi hospital fire; AAP hits back

In a note to the chief secretary, Saxena said it was 'heart rending' that parents from lower-income groups 'were being duped' by this nursing home operating without a valid registration.
Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 15:44 IST
Last Updated : 28 May 2024, 15:44 IST

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New Delhi: Delhi Lt Governor VK SaxenaF has ordered a comprehensive ACB probe into the registration and regulatory management of private nursing homes in the city, after six newborns were killed in a neonatal hospital fire, Raj Niwas officials said on Tuesday.

In a note to the chief secretary, Saxena said it was "heart rending" that parents from lower-income groups "were being duped" by this nursing home operating without a valid registration.

After Saxena issued the order, Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj hit back and said the Lt Governor has not spoken a word on the health secretary who has been 'missing' since the fire incident.

Bharadwaj said he even wrote to the Union home secretary on the issue.

Saxena, in his note, said the 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.

"I have taken a very stern view in the matter. Though this is a transferred subject, in larger public interest, I am forced to step in, on account of the lack of seriousness on part of authorities entrusted with these responsibilities," he said.

"In the matter at hand regarding the tragic fire and nursing home ... the ACB (Anti Corruption Branch) is directed to undertake a comprehensive inquiry into the registration of nursing homes in the city to assess how many nursing homes are functioning without valid registrations and whether those which have valid registration are complying with prescribed norms as provided under Delhi Nursing Homes Registration Act, 1953, and the rules made thereunder," according to the note.

Five oxygen cylinders exploded when a fire broke out at the neonatal hospital in the Vivek Vihar area of east Delhi that was operating without a licence and a Fire department clearance, according to the Delhi Police's FIR. Six newborns were killed in the blaze.

The Raj Niwas officials said the probe will also ascertain if the grant and renewal of registration by the Health department is done after 100 per cent site inspection.

"Is there a proper checklist to ensure whether the facility meets the requisite safety norms and has the medical infrastructure and professionals as provided under law?" the note said.

Saxena said that there are 1,190 nursing homes, of which more than a quarter are operating without a valid registration.

"Also, there are many nursing homes in the city which have never applied for a registration but are still operating. Even those nursing homes, which have a valid registration, may not be meeting the safety and regulatory standards as prescribed...," he noted.

Saxena said the incident is a "sad reflection on the total absence of ministerial oversight in regulatory management of private health facilities in the city".

The Lt Governor said he is 'disappointed' that the chief minister and the health minister 'have paid only lip service' and are 'shirking responsibility'.

"Administration cannot be run on social media nor by brushing such serious matters under the carpet," he noted.

Saxena also said the ACB may determine the "connivance and complicity of concerned public servants of the Health department".

"The chief secretary may also advice all district magistrates to have a field verification done of their respective areas within two weeks to ascertain the actual number of functional nursing homes, which can then be compared with the list of the Health department. This would give a sense of the magnitude of the problem and the extent of violations prevalent in the city," he said.

Saxena pointed out that the city government assured Delhi High Court in April that it would adopt the Clinical Establishment (Registration and Regulation) Act, 2010, in "no later than four weeks'' while preparing its own legislation.

"It is shocking to note that even after a lapse of nearly two months, the health minister has chosen not to act on a matter of such public importance, even at the risk of inviting contempt of court," he said.

Hitting back, Bharadwaj said he called and messaged the health secretary a day after the blaze but there was no response.

He said he also sent a note to the secretary's residence but it was not received.

In a video posted on X, the AAP leader said, "On Monday, I held a meeting and the health secretary was not present. I am surprised that for the three days, the health secretary has been missing." "L-G sir did not say anything on this. The Health department has a huge role to play in case of any major event like earthquake, terrorist attack or fire incident. How is it possible that he can disappear? Someone told me he is on leave. But he did not inform me," Bharadwaj claimed.

Even when an officer is on leave, there is a link officer but, in this case, even that person is not there, Bharadwaj charged.

"The L-G did not utter a word on this. Many times we have complained about health secretary to the L-G but no action was taken against him. What does this mean? Have they been given protection for not following elected government's directions?" he asked.

"Have they been told that they have no accountability to ministers? … How can officers be made to work if they are not listening to ministers?" he said.

Published 28 May 2024, 15:44 IST

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