Health Ministry raises alert over Covid team vacancies: ‘Acute stress’

This is the second time in two months that Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan has highlighted vacancies in the Health Ministry.

THE Union Health Ministry has raised concern over vacancies in nine senior officer posts in its Covid team, saying this had put it under “acute stress”.

In a letter dated October 13 to Deepti Umashankar, Establishment Officer and Additional Secretary, DoPT, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, “As you are aware that even though the pandemic of Covid-19 is declining, however we cannot let our guard down. At this crucial juncture, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare is required to put in extra efforts to ensure full preparedness across the country. Vacant positions of one Joint Secretary and eight DS (Deputy Secretaries) / Directors have put this ministry under acute stress.”

Bhushan sought “early and timely action” to fill up the existing vacancies “and also the vacancies arising in the coming weeks”.

This is the second time in two months that Bhushan has highlighted vacancies in the Health Ministry. On August 12, he had written to the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) about the unfilled posts of additional secretary, joint secretary, director and deputy secretary under the Central Staffing Scheme of the Central Secretariat Services (CSS) in the Health Ministry.

Asked about the letter, a Health Ministry official, who refused to be named, said: “Each ministry gives the list of vacancies every month to the DoPT. Otherwise how would they fill the vacancies?”

With his October 13 letter, Bhushan shared a list of 11 officers who have moved out of the ministry or are about to do so. On the top is Vandana Gurnani, Additional Secretary and Mission Director, National Health Mission, who went on one-year study leave in September 2021. The others include Joint Secretary Nipun Vinayak, who looked after oxygen supply during the severe Covid second wave and was repatriated prematurely to his Maharashtra cadre on August 31; and Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal, who has been the face of the ministry at Covid briefings and completes his tenure with the Health Ministry on November 28.

Bhushan also named Bindu Tewari, an IRSME (Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineers) official working in the Ministry as Director, who was repatriated to her parent cadre on July 7; and N Yuvaraj, who was moved out as Director from the Health Ministry to Joint Secretary in the Department of Pharmaceuticals.

Besides them, Mahatme Sandeep Namdeo, posted in the Ministry as Deputy Secretary, is now Private Secretary to Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister for Communication; Yatish S G, another Deputy Secretary-level officer, was permanently repatriated to his parent IRTS cadre on September 13; and Vidushi Chaturvedi, Director in the Health Ministry, is “awaiting approval” for her selection as Deputy Director General in the UIDAI.

CSS officers Vandana Jain and S K Jha, both Directors in the Ministry, have got promotions as Joint Secretaries. While Jain is Joint Secretary in the Health Ministry, Jha has moved to the Department of Revenue, relieved with effect from August 26.

Another CSS officer and Director, Health Ministry, N B Mani, died during the second Covid wave.

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