Wednesday March 27, 2019

National Cancer Institute at Jhajjar: PMO pushes but ministry delays?

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New Delhi: The Rs 2,035 crore National Cancer Institute (NCI), touted as one of the biggest government-run health projects in the country, has got a nudge from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). The project was delayed by almost a year, but the PMO directed that it should be completed before September 2017 deadline. And there lies the catch — a key minister doesn’t have the time for it.

The institute is slated to come up at Jhajjar (Haryana campus) of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at about 60 km from Delhi. It will offer tertiary care facilities other than those that are meant for cancer.

However, AIIMS sources say the delays have mainly been because of the inability to hold a meeting of the Institute Body headed by Health Minister JP Nadda to award the tender for the construction work. Such important decisions are taken by the Institute Body that is the apex decision-making panel for AIIMS. The Institute Body also chooses the governing body members. However, after the Narendra Modi government assumed power last May, the new Institute Body has not even been appointed.

After a meeting chaired by principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra, on July 11, 2015, a decision was taken which stated, “The project of NCI should be viewed as a flagship health institute project and the construction should be completed six months before the deadline.” IANS has seen the document.

The meeting was attended by secretary of the union health ministry, the chief secretary of the Haryana government, the AIIMS director, the joint secretary in charge of AIIMS in the health ministry, the AIIMS deputy director (Administration), the chief of the Institute Rotary Cancer Hospital (IRCH) at AIIMS.

A senior health ministry official,  revealed, “The ministry had taken a decision to grant total autonomy to the new AIIMS. Greater powers in terms of administration and financial decisions should be given to the institute bodies. That is why a decision has been taken that the contract for the campus in Jhajjar should be granted by the institute body and not by the ministry. This will give them a sense of empowerment, responsibility and help in expediting the decision making in the long run. The AIIMS Institute Body is all set to be constituted within a fortnight and the contract for the construction will be granted immediately after that by the newly-appointed body. This would make the AIIMS’ project run more efficiently in a particular time frame.”

cancer-390322_640The parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare, on August 11, had also observed that the development of AIIMS campus-II in Jhajjar, Haryana, was an ambitious project and would require not only massive allocation of funds but also sustained monitoring.

The committee wanted health ministry to ensure that development of the project was executed within the initial estimated project costs and time-frame to avoid any time-overruns and cost escalation.

The cabinet approved the project on December 26, 2013. About 300 acres has been earmarked; out of which 32 acre has been allotted for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), which has been assigned more than 700 beds.

But the question remains whether the project will be accomplished within the targeted date. The proposed date of the start of the project was January 1, 2014, and the duration of the project was 45 months. The target date of completion is September 2017.

“The award of work for the institute block at NCI should have been completed within nine months (September, 2014) of the start of the project (January 1, 2014) and the construction should have started in October, 2014. It’s been more than year-and-a-half now, but still the award of work has not been done. How is it possible to complete the work within the stipulated time-frame,” asked an AIIMS source.

The decision to award the tender to Shapoorji Pallonji & Company Limited was taken in the standing finance committee (SFC) meeting of AIIMS on May 26, but the approval had to come from the highest decision-making bodies of AIIMS. The Institute Body has to convene to constitute the Governing Body of AIIMS. The Institute Body meeting is now likely to take place in October.

“The award of work has been stalled for four months, even if it was decided in the last SFC meeting. The Institute Body meeting which was scheduled on August 6 was cancelled by Health Minister JP Nadda. By doing so, the project is getting delayed further,” the source added.

Reacting to this, the AIIMS deputy director (Administration), V Srinivas said, “Statutory clearances from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, National Board of Wildlife, State Board of Wildlife, Haryana, and the Departments of Town & Country Planning, Fire, Irrigation, Electricity Board, PHED and Labour in the government of Haryana for the National Cancer Institute have been received. All efforts are being made to ensure timely commencement of work and adherence to prescribed timeline.”

The other institutes proposed for the Jhajjar campus are National Cardiovascular Centre, General Purpose Hospital, National Transaction and Training Centre, National Centre for Child Health, Digestive Diseases Centre, National Institute of Geriatrics, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Centre and National Institute of Nursing Research.

(Sidhartha Dutta, IANS)

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13 Million in Congo Suffer from ‘Hunger’ and ‘Malnutrition’: UN

U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year - more than double the $700 million plus that it raised last year to help 8.5 million people

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FILE - A Congolese boy has his arm measured for malnutrition in a clinic run by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres in the remote town of Dubie in Congo's southeastern Katanga province, March 18, 2006. VOA

The number of people needing humanitarian aid in Congo has increased dramatically in the past year to 13 million and “hunger and malnutrition have reached the highest level on record,” the head of the U.N. children’s agency said Monday.

UNICEF’s Executive Director Henrietta Fore told a news conference that 7.5 million of those needing aid are children, including 4 million suffering from acute malnutrition and over 1.4 million from severe acute malnutrition “which means that they are in imminent risk of death.”

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock, who just returned from a visit to Congo with Fore, said the U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year – more than double the $700 million plus that it raised last year to help 8.5 million people.

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U.N. is appealing for $1.65 billion in humanitarian aid for the country this year. Pixabay

He said the worsening humanitarian situation is the result of economic stresses including volatility in commodity prices and the turbulent political situation surrounding December’s elections, compounded by violence, increased displacement and the world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak. Fore added that farmers fleeing with their families and drought in some areas also contributed.

She said the difficulty is that last year’s U.N. appeal was only half funded, and if that same amount is contributed this year it will only be a quarter of this year’s appeal, “and the needs are immense.”

Fore cited more grim statistics: 2 million people were newly displaced last year; 7.3 million children are out of school; 300,000 children die each year before their fifth birthday; 3 in 10 women are reported to be victims of sexual violence; and in January alone there were 7,000 cases of measles and 3,500 cases of cholera.

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UNICEF and its partners are providing psycho-social support, food and material assistance to the children, she said. Pixabay

Congo’s Health Ministry said Monday that the Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, with a death toll of 629.

Fore said about 30 percent of the cases are children, and UNICEF has identified about 1,000 children who have been orphaned or left unaccompanied while their parents are isolated in Ebola treatment wards.

UNICEF and its partners are providing psycho-social support, food and material assistance to the children, she said.

In the major city of Bunia close to the epidemic’s center, Fore said U.N. and Red Cross officials visited a kindergarten where Ebola survivors who cannot get the virus were caring for orphaned and unaccompanied children.

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Congo’s Health Ministry said Monday that the Ebola epidemic has now exceeded 1,000 cases, with a death toll of 629. Pixabay

The U.N. officials also visited Goma, Beni and Butembo and the capital Kinshasa where Lowcock said they had “extremely constructive talks” with Congo’s new president, Felix Tshisekedi.

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“We were encouraged by the new president” who said he would like to work closely with the U.N. on humanitarian issues and problems related to the millions of displaced people, the undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs said.

“Congo is a country where progress is possible,” Lowcock said, pointing to lower infant mortality, more children in school and Kinshasa becoming a modern African capital. (VOA)