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Health Ministry issues alert over Covid team vacancies

by Vaishali Sharma

The vacancy of nine senior officer positions in the Union Health Ministry’s Covid team has put the department under “acute stress,” according to the ministry.

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”.

Bhushan has identified openings in the Health Ministry for the second time in two months. He had written to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) on August 12 regarding the vacant positions of extra secretary, joint secretary, director, and deputy secretary in the Health Ministry under the Central Staffing Scheme of the Central Secretariat Services (CSS).

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?”

Bhushan included a list of 11 personnel who have left or are going to leave the ministry in his October 13 letter. Vandana Gurnani, Additional Secretary and Mission Director of the National Health Mission, is at the top of the list, having taken a one-year study leave in September 2021. Joint Secretary Nipun Vinayak, who oversaw oxygen supplies during the severe Covid second wave and was prematurely deported to his Maharashtra cadre on August 31, and Joint Secretary Lav Agarwal, who has been the ministry’s face during Covid briefings and will leave the Health Ministry on November 28.

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