MoH keeps eye on 50 agitating staffers for possible suspension
KATHMANDU, March 7: After the Ministry of Health (MoH) suspended 18 staffers for obstructing polio vaccinations in 15 districts, the immunization drive resumed in these districts for a few days from Monday.
“Following suspension of 18 agitating staffers, we have resumed administering anti-polio drops from today for a few days,” said Jeevan Bhandari, press advisor to Health Minister Gagan Thapa.
Polio vaccination in the 15 districts scheduled for February 18-19 was halted due to the protest launched across the country by health professionals demanding relocation as per their promotion, in line with Clause 9 (B) of the Health Act. A total of 3,857 health staffers and workers were promoted after 2006 on the basis of years of work.
The immunization drive had been rescheduled for last Friday and Saturday. However, it was unsuccessful due to the padlocking of health posts and offices by agitating staffers.
The government targeted administering polio drops to some 1.69 million children under five in the 15 districts.
According to MoH officials, the ministry has been watching the activities of agitating staff to see whether they are supporting the immunization drive or trying to foil it. “Around 50 staffers affiliated to different trade unions are on the watch list,” said senior MoH officials.
The 18 staff that MoH suspended on Sunday and sought clarifications from within three days are district chiefs Dr Daya Shankar Lal Karna of Siraha, Nagendra Chaudhary of Saptari and Sachchitananda Dev of Dhanusha, and.Chhedi Prasad Yadav of Saptari, Rajkumar Thapa and Sheshraj Dahal of Bhaktapur, Bishnu Bahadur Chhetri, Surendra Raj Joshi and Birendra Kumar Mishra of Kapilvastu, Prithvi Chandra Bhagat, Dev Narayan Sahu and Mahesh Pokharel of Sunsari, Anil Kumar Pandeya and Rajesh Prasad Rauniyar of Parsa, Top Bahadur Thapa of Kathmandu, Basudev Pokharel of Salyan, and Ramesh Karki and Sanjay Kumar Kafle of Morang.
Although the government had issued a commitment to create a pool for promoted staff as per need and assign them to the respective places in a month, staff affiliated to different political parties including CPN-UML have been staging protests, thwarting the vaccination program.
The health professionals have been staging protests for about the last two months, demanding reassignment as health post chiefs though they have not achieved the requisite qualification.
The polio immunization was planned for the 15 districts of Sunsari, Saptari, Siraha, Dhanusha, Mahottari, Rautahat, Parsa, Bara, Kapilvastu, Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur.
MoH has urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide security measures against any untoward incidents.
Nepal received certification of polio eradication from the World Health Organization in 2010 and of zero polio country in 2014. But the government has decided to conduct another campaign because of the high risk of polio reoccurrence as the viral disease is still prevalent in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
UNICEF will support with the vaccines for the immunization program while WHO will provide Rs. 15 million for the campaign. WHO has targeted the eradication of polio from the world by 2018.