Saptari disaster committee prioritises security forces over health facilitiesHospitals in the district say they don’t have enough money to buy protective gear for staffers.
The Saptari district disaster management committee has distributed half of the money it received from the provincial government to fight the coronavirus epidemic to security agencies at a time when local health facilities are reeling under a budget crunch.
Of the Rs 5 million provided by the Province 2 government, Rs 2.6 million has been given to Nepal Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Investigation Department units based in the district.
The committee headed by the chief district officer has provided just Rs 100,000 each to the District Public Health Office and Gajendra Narayan Singh Hospital to set up isolation wards.
“We haven’t been able to provide personal protective equipment to health workers who have been deployed to control Covid-19 in the district due to lack of money,” said Duniya Lal Yadav, chief at the District Public Health Office in Saptari. “Some of the quarantine facilities in different parts of the district do not have basic equipment like thermal guns,” he added.
“The health office should provide security gear to employees deployed in the field. But we haven’t been able to purchase any due to the lack of budget,” he added.
According to him, the government provided the office Rs 500,000 to launch awareness campaigns and an additional Rs 500,000 to purchase medicines and equipment. But the amount is not enough.
According to the District Public Health Office, quarantine facilities in Dakneshwori, Shambhunath, Khadaga, Rupani, Rajgadh and Chhinnamasta do not even have thermal guns. “The health workers have been using a digital thermometer to measure body temperature of the quarantined people there,” said Duniya Lal.
The money was provided to the security forces despite the government’s separate provisioning of Rs 4.5 million to Nepal Police, Armed Police Force and National Investigation Department of the province under.
According to Saptari Chief District Officer Sunil Khanal, Bhimdal Battalion of Nepal Army, the District Police Office and Armed Police Battalion 6, Rajbiraj have been provided Rs 700,000 each while Nepal Police Training Centre and Armed Police Force Battalion in Barmajhiya provided Rs 200,000 each. Similarly, the National Investigation Office in Saptari was provided Rs 100,000.
Khanal claimed that the amount was distributed as per the decision of the disaster management committee. “The amount was provided to security agencies to buy equipment and for the mobilisation of the security personnel in the field,” he added.
People’s representatives, political parties and even some members of the district disaster management committee have raised questions over the amount provided to security agencies by ignoring the health sector.
Ashok Kumar Mandal, Saptari chairman of Nepal Communist Party, and Nepal Congress district president Dinesh Kumar Yadav, both members of the district disaster management committee, condemned the move. Both of them said that they were not consulted with while distributing the amount. “We were not even informed about the meeting of the disaster management committee. The chief district officer and the chiefs of the security agencies decided unilaterally,” said Mandal.
Meanwhile, police detained 25 people, including 14 Indian nationals, who refused to stay in quarantine. Security personnel detained them in Bhardaha, Saptari on Wednesday evening and have kept them in a quarantine in Mahuli. Investigation is on to find out from where they entered Saptari, said police.