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Health Min Raises Alarm Over COVID Team Shortage; Staff Under 'Acute Stress'

In a second letter to the DoPT, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that COVID teams had many vacancies.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>In a letter to the DoPT, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that COVID teams were understaffed. Image used for representational purposes.&nbsp;</p></div>
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The Union Health Ministry has raised an alarm over nine vacancies in senior positions in its COVID team in a letter written to the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). Dated Wednesday, 13 October, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote to Deepti Umashankar, Establishment Officer and Additonal Secretary of the DoPT, seeking "early and timely action" to fill the posts, reported Indian Express.

Stating that the shortage had put the team under "acute stress", Bhushan went on to urge the department to also fill up the vacancies that may arise in the coming weeks.

As per NDTV, Bhushan said that despite declining COVID-19 cases, it was imperative that the Health Ministry not let their guard down.

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"At this crucial juncture, the Ministry of Health is required to put in extra efforts to ensure full preparedness across the country. Vacant positions of one Joint Secretary and eight DS/Directors have put this Ministry under acute stress," Bhushan added.

The Health Secretary also mentions by name, eleven people who moved out of the Ministry for reasons like study leaves, promotions or repatration. According to Indian Express, the list includes people such as Vandana Gurnani, Additonal Secretary and Mission Director, National Health Mission and Joint Secretary Nipun Vinayak, who was looking into oxygen supply during the second wave of COVID-19.

A Health Ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, told Indian Express, "Each Ministry gives the list of vacancies every month to the DoPT. Otherwise how would they fill the vacancies?"

This letter to the DoPT is the second in two months in which Bhushan noted unfilled vacancies in the Health Ministry. The first, dated 12 August, highlighted vacancies for the posts of joint secretary, deputy secretary, additional secretary and director under the Central Staffing Scheme in the Ministry.

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