SHILLONG, Oct 26 - The Meghalaya Health Department is in a poor shape with the all-important 108 EMRI services on the verge of collapse as the employees have been on a strike since October 1.
According to sources, the State Health Department has to share the blame for the situation as it has not directed its focus on strengthening the system since the past many years. The employees have been demanding pay hike and replacement of ambulances.
In the tender agreement with the EMRI, the State Government inked an annual increment of 3.7 per cent for the operation of the project. The State Government signed the agreement with the EMRI in 2016 for five years.
However, the State Government has not released the incremental cost to the EMRI this fiscal. Sources said though the EMRI initially sought a 10 per cent annual hike in operating costs, it settled for 3.7 per cent based on the wholesale price index as insisted on by the State Government.
“The incremental cost of running the project was not released, which should have been released by April this year,” the sources said.
Apart from the operating cost, the project has another component – the capital expenditure cost. Replacement of ambulances, medical items and IT service are included under it.
The EMRI submitted a proposal to the State Government a long time back for upgrade of the systems for running the project – be it in terms of new ambulances, medical items or IT. None received a positive response from the State Government in many years.
“As of now, the EMRI requires 31 new ambulances for the smooth operation of the project. This proposal has been pending with the Government,” the sources added.
According to the sources, the IT service is obsolete. A multinational company which initially ran the software has pulled out as the software is obsolete.
“The software is obsolete and is over 10 years old, but somehow being managed by some private companies. There have been numerous meetings in which the issue of upgrade of the IT service was raised with the Government as it is crucial in an emergency service,” the sources added.
Since the capital expenditure has been frozen by the State Government, most of the ambulances and medical equipment like stretchers need to be changed urgently.
The State Government’s woe is that it depends on the Centre for most funds. The State Government is now looking at the Centre to bail it out.
Meanwhile, the people of the State have been facing hardships as the employees have not budged from their demands. The State Government is going to issue a pre-closure notice, which means that the agreement would cease to exist after a certain period. If that happens, the 250 employees might lose their jobs as their contract is co-terminus with the tender agreement.
The Government can call a new tender and ink a fresh agreement. However, the State Government is in no position to run the project on its own, as is being demanded by some of the agitating employees.
Officials sources said that the State Government does not have the expertise to run such an important project on its own.