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Thursday, April 22, 2021

‘Informal system’ run by some private hospitals, no timely schedule: NHA CEO

RS Sharma. Terming it a “worrying” trend, he said the government is gearing up to take action against those who do not “rectify” this.

Written by Prabha Raghavan | New Delhi |
Updated: March 5, 2021 8:20:20 am
RS Sharma, CEO, National Health Authority

While the number of registrations for jabs against Covid-19 in India is on the rise, not all private hospitals are being transparent about the slots they have available for vaccinations, according to National Health Authority CEO RS Sharma. Terming it a “worrying” trend, he said the government is gearing up to take action against those who do not “rectify” this.

The lack of transparency over the schedule for vaccinations at these private hospitals makes it difficult for senior citizens and persons with co-morbidities in the priority group to schedule appointments, said Sharma, who also heads the empowered committee for the administration of Covid-19 vaccines.

According to him, “every” hospital that is participating in the government’s mass vaccination programme against Covid has access to a facility management dashboard. The hospitals are expected to use this dashboard to make vaccination timetables and declare vacant slots for jabs. Hospitals are supposed to prioritise those who schedule appointments for vaccinations over walk-in appointments, he said.

However, some hospitals are “deliberately” not publishing their timetables until “the last moment”, allowing them to vaccinate walk-ins more through an “informal system”, according to Sharma. These hospitals, therefore, do not show up as options when people are trying to schedule an appointment through the CoWIN website or Aarogya Setu, according to him.

“They got the vaccines (from the government), and they should have published (the timetable) in advance so that everybody would have seen it,” Sharma told The Indian Express. Ensuring transparency in the vaccination timetable and slots available is part of the standard operating procedure for hospitals participating in the vaccination drive, according to him.

“Basically, it should be a transparent system, which means that everybody should have a chance to register an appointment,” he said. “Now, people don’t see their (the hospital’s) names (in the list for scheduling appointments), and suddenly you find that they are vaccinating. People feel cheated,” he said.

“It’s like (if) you’re running a train tomorrow, but you did not publish the timetable of the train. Obviously, people will not be able to make reservations,” he said. “That’s not fair, so we are going to see that those things don’t happen … Everybody is equal for the government. You can’t just give it to your friends, relatives and customers.”

Those not making available the timetables for when vaccinations are to occur at their facility will face dire consequences, according to Sharma. This includes stripping hospitals of their right to participate in the mass vaccination exercise. In the case of hospitals tied up with the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY), this could also mean de-empanelment from the scheme, as per him.

“They (hospitals) are not allowed to (prioritise) walk-ins. They are asked to publish 100 percent of their vacancies on the portal,” Sharma told The Indian Express. “If the facility is full already through reservations, then they can’t offer (slots) to walk-ins,” he said.

However, it is acceptable for hospitals to allow walk-ins if slots are still vacant by 3 pm on a given vaccination day, he added.

While the current scheduling system allows people to book a vaccination either “forenoon” or “afternoon” between 9 am to 5 pm, going forward, the scheduling system is expected to be fine-tuned to accommodate specific time slots, according to Sharma.

The number of daily vaccinations, as per the certificate module of the government’s digital vaccination system, was 7.20 lakh on March 3, up from 4.23 lakh on March 1, he said. This includes vaccination of healthcare workers. As of 11:30 am on March 4, the government had sent out a total of 88.10 lakh OTPs for registration-related activities. An OTP is sent every time a person wants to log in to the system on CoWIN.

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