Why has such gross negligence gone unpunished?

February 18, 2020

Wasting ICU equipment

Why has such gross negligence gone unpunished?

It is a blatant display of utter neglect. When many hospitals in the country lack rudimentary lifesaving devices, that a hospital in the country would allow costly equipment in its inventory to fall into disrepair and eventually become obsolete before being put to use, is shocking. And even more so if that happens to be a specialised hospital set up for the treatment of cancer. It is outrageous, but true, that the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital (NICRH) has been negligent in the maintenance of very expensive hospital equipment, including ICU ventilators. And in this respect, five senior doctors and officials of NICRH have been found in dereliction of their duty, in a report forwarded to the High Court (HC) following its ruling. It taxes one’s credulity to learn that this equipment had been procured 12 years back and none of the several project directors found the time to have them installed.

But there are other even more outrageous aspects of this episode. Were it not for the fact that the matter was exposed in a report in January this year in this newspaper, and the suo moto rule of the High Court on the government that very day, one wonders whether the matter would have come to light at all? One also wonders about the chain of oversight and supervision in the entire system of the health ministry’s administration. Are we to believe that nobody from the ministry or the DG Health’s office had visited the hospital even once in the last 12 years? The situation exposes a serious systemic void bordering on criminality.

We thank the HC, without whose role some of the issues of public interest, including this one, would have continued to be neglected and public funds would have continued to be frittered away with impunity. We are glad that the HC has sought further information regarding the steps taken against the officials and set February 23 as the date to pass further orders on the issue. Squandering public money deserves the severest of punishments.

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