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Monday, March 08, 2021

Mumbai: BMC undertakes scrutiny of health worker records, private hospitals can only vaccinate own staff

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken an undertaking from private hospitals that they will not vaccinate frontline workers or staff from other hospitals or clinics.

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Mumbai |
Updated: February 14, 2021 10:23:48 pm
On Sunday, a BMC team visited these hospitals to conduct inspections of the vaccination room, observation room, ICU set-up to manage severe reactions and to provide training in managing the Co-WIN portal. (File)

As private hospitals in Mumbai prepare to start Covid vaccination this week, concerns are high that non-health workers could get an opportunity to jump the queue and get a free jab.

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has taken an undertaking from private hospitals that they will not vaccinate frontline workers or staff from other hospitals or clinics. “For now, private hospitals permitted to hold vaccination camps can only vaccinate their own staff. Limited doses will be distributed to them and our officials will check the line-list before each session,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani.

At least 20 major private hospitals with more than 300-500 personnel have been chosen to join 23 government centres in the city’s vaccination drive.

On Sunday, a BMC team visited these hospitals to conduct inspections of the vaccination room, observation room, ICU set-up to manage severe reactions and to provide training in managing the Co-WIN portal. The inspections will continue till Monday. Private hospitals are most likely to begin vaccination camps from Tuesday or Wednesday.

“Private hospitals in Thane and Navi Mumbai have begun vaccination camps. In Mumbai, we can help government speed up the coverage. We have agreed to give an undertaking to only immunise our own staff,” said Dr Gautam Bhansali, physician with Bombay Hospital, one of the 20 shortlisted as vaccination centres.

Each hospital will train its staff to navigate and register recipients through Co-WIN, but vaccination will be done in the presence of at least one civic official at the hospital. Private hospitals will receive Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

Civic officials said their only concern is to ensure that the families of private doctors do not get a free jab under the guise of being healthcare workers. Such instances have been reported in Chennai, Goa and Amravati. In Amravati, a hospital owner listed 19 family members as health workers who received their first shot at a government hospital. Suspecting that a similar practice could be happening in Mumbai, the BMC has instructed all medical officers to scrutinise data of private healthcare workers and check if non-medicos have been added in the list of health workers. Simultaneously, vaccination centres have begun the process of verifying professional identification cards along with personal identification.

“In my ward, I am checking the names of owners of small and big hospitals and if people listed in their hospital have the same surname,” said Dr Jeetendra Jadhav, medical officer in L-Ward (Kurla). “So far, I found nothing,” he added.

Dr Ajit Pampatwar, medical officer in Andheri (K-west), said that at Dr RN Cooper Hospital vaccination centre, health workers are turned away if they do not have ID-proof from the hospital. “In 3-4 cases, NGO workers were listed for immunisation by the hospital, saying they held medical camps. We did not vaccinate them because there was no ID-proof of them attached with a hospital,” Pampatwar said. But he added that it was not a difficult prospect for people to arrange fake ID-proofs.

The process of detecting “fake” health workers could be difficult, according to experts. Executive health officer Dr Mangala Gomare said the exercise to double check the list of health workers has been underway for the past few days. “However, it will be difficult to find out. Vaccination centres are the best option to do verification,” she said.

Mumbai has 1.75 lakh registered health workers, of which at least 50,000 names were added in the past month. The portal to register new health workers is now shut. A BMC medical officer said they believe that if names of non-health workers have been added, it was most likely done in the past month when eagerness to take the vaccine rose after very few adverse events were reported. Till date, 90,034 health workers and 24,173 frontline workers have been vaccinated.

The second dose, administered 28 days after the first dose, will be given from Monday. Across Maharashtra, 6.83 lakh people have been vaccinated with the first dose, of them 18,328 health workers are scheduled to receive their second dose on Monday.

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