Vijayawada: If you want to take a Covid-19 test or a jab at a government urban health centre, be ready to pay Rs 20 for either one. Surprised? But, it is true.
A private agency deputed at a government urban health centre at Sambhu Nagar in Rajamahendravaram in East Godavari has started collecting Rs 20 per head for conducting a Covid test or administering a jab. They set up a paper carton box on the staircase of the urban centre and after registration, they are asking people to pay Rs 20 on completion of the test or vaccination. In case any forget to pay, they are being called back to pay up.
Irked at it, some people confronted the agency asking who authorised them to collect money when the state government was providing both the test and jab free of charge at government facilities. Their justification was that as the management of the private agency which employed them was not paying wages for the last five months, they were not having money to meet transportation charges of test kits and jab doses.
Urban health centre coordinator Suresh said, “We are not being paid our wages for five months. I have to transport test kits and jab doses and also deposit them, travelling a distance of 12 km to the government hospital several times in a day as transport facility is not being provided. As the cost of petrol shot up beyond Rs 100 a litre, we are bearing the fuel cost from our pockets. Our management says that as they are yet to get funds from the state government for nearly five months, they are unable to pay wages. So, we have to mobilise funds in such a way as to serve the government even though it is not acceptable. I was even warned of trouble if asked for wages by our management.”
The previous Telugu Desam regime roped in two private agencies to provide health services at all urban health centres in the state nearly four years ago, with one agency being entrusted with three districts – East Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram – while the remaining 10 districts are under the control of another private agency which faces no issues of payment of wages even as they too are to get funds from the state government for nearly six months.
Though it is not known whether the health personnel working for a private agency in three districts are finding out other sources of unauthorised income, but the Rajahmahendravaram urban health centre’s episode seems a tip of the iceberg as the collusion of outsourced health personnel with middlemen was witnessed in several parts in the state for diversion of jabs to the black market and other lapses to make easy money.
East Godavari district medical and health officer Dr K.V.S. Gowriswara Rao said, “When the state government is providing Covid-19 test and jab free of cost for the benefit of all people, it is illegal to collect money from the people at the urban health irrespective of their problems. We will conduct a probe and initiate necessary action against the culprits.”
Meanwhile, state health authorities say that there are nearly 240 urban health centres in the state and as the contract period with two private agencies for providing health services is getting over very shortly, the state government will take over the centres. The number will up to nearly 563 and health personnel recruitment is in progress.
Director of Health Dr T. Geetha Prasadini said, “Nobody is permitted to collect even a single paisa for health services at urban health centres in the state and we will take up an inquiry and take appropriate action.”...