Health staff obstruct polio vaccination in many districts

- Manish Gautam, Kathmandu

Mar 5, 2017-In a sheer violation of the people’s constitutional right to access health services, health professionals on Saturday hindered the polio vaccination drive of the government in many districts.

Thousands of children and their parents were forced to return from vaccination centres in 15 districts after health workers boycotted the two-day national drive that kicked off on Saturday.

Nepal has not witnessed polio cases for the last six years and is about to announce eradication of the crippling disease, a success that has gained accolades in South Asia. According to officials at the Child Health Division (CHD), the campaign was successful only in Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Kapivastu districts. In other districts, vaccination centres were able to serve children only partially, said Krishna Bahadur Chand, the immunisation section chief at the division.

The government had scheduled the vaccination drive in 15 districts—Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur and the Tarai districts including Kailali, Bardiya, Banke, Kapilvastu, Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Siraha, Saptari and Sunsari. The CHD aims to vaccinate over 1.6 million children from the 15 districts.

“This is a crime,” said Dr Badri Raj Pandey, chairperson of the National Certification Committee for Polio Eradication, an independent experts’ committee.”It is unethical. The health personnel involved in such deeds should be booked immediately.” The exact number of the children affected by the protest is yet to be ascertained.

Health professionals are on strike over their promotion and deputation because of a lax provision in the Health Services Act-1997. Trade union leaders are blaming others for the disruption.

“This was a sheer mistake. We wanted to implement provision 9(2) of the Act but other trade unions politicised the matter,” said Ramjee Ghimire of the Nepal Health Professionals’ Association.

Bhaktiman Subba, chairperson of the National Association of Health Professionals Nepal, claimed that their members were on the ground.

“I will take action against the health professionals who will obstruct the vaccination,” said Health Minister Gagan Thapa. “Every child who did not get the vaccine today will get polio drops right at their homes on Sunday and Monday. I still urge all the health professionals not to obstruct the drive.” Minister Thapa said many of the demands of the health professionals had already been addressed.

Published: 05-03-2017 08:54

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