TENKASI: Allegations of bribery and falsification by private outsourcing agencies have marred the recruitment of health inspectors at a time when their service is of utmost importance in the battle against the coronavirus. The State government has been recruiting Grade-II Health Inspectors, through private outsourcing agencies, to fill up 3,049 vacancies.
Public Health Department Officials Association (PHDOA) State President G Gangadharan alleged that those agencies recruiting the health inspectors were collecting from the candidates, bribes ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 1 lakh.
He also said that the State has been recruiting them only on a temporary basis and that the shortage of well-trained inspectors has been causing a slowdown in the fight against the pandemic. "Those who have completed 'Multipurpose Health Worker/Sanitary Inspector Course' are attending the interview for the post, many of whom have already joined duty. As per the Health Department's G.O., their post will be a temporary one for three months. However, the private agencies are mentioning a 'one-year contract' in the appointment orders of the candidates to collect more bribe," he alleged.
A newly-joined health inspector, on a condition of anonymity, agreed to TNIE of having paid `30,000 as a bribe for the post to an outsourcing agency. "Our main job is to screen foreign returnees, the people from other states and those symptomatic of COVID-19. We have to quarantine them if required. We are paid Rs 20,000 monthly as a salary. After spending money on travel, food and other expenses, we take home about Rs 10,000 of our salary. If we were to be removed from the service in three months, we would not have even earned the money that we had paid as a bribe," said the inspector.
On the alleged malpractice of the outsourcing agencies, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine K Kolandasamy said that he would take action against the agencies, if he received any complaint on the same.
'Recruit permanent health inspectors'
The members of PHDOA also demanded the State government to recruit permanent health inspectors, instead of recruiting them on a temporary basis. Gangadharan asked why the health inspectors were not being recruited permanently by the State, which had done so in recruiting laboratory technicians, nurses and doctors. "The health inspectors are the front runners in the fight against the pandemic. We are the first to meet any COVID-19 patient, and our duty extends till admitting them to the isolation wards of district hospitals. Recruiting health inspectors on a temporary basis during the pandemic is unacceptable," he said.
Kolandaswamy said that he was making efforts to recruit permanent health inspectors. "Our department had around 80,000 health workers, including health inspectors, when it needed to fight diseases like malaria, cholera and chickenpox. However, the necessity of the workers declined when these diseases were brought under control. Now, we have again started facing deadly diseases like dengue, Nipah and COVID-19. Hence, the State government will take steps to increase the number of health inspector posts. As we did not have time to recruit them through the Medical Recruitment Board or Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission, we are outsourcing them for a three-month contract," he said.