Notwithstanding a court order that made biometric attendance at government hospitals and Health Department offices, physical registration is still continuing. Officials and doctors cited COVID-19 for disrupting their work profile, making it difficult to implement the new system.
An official from Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital admitted that the hospital was still maintaining a physical register. “Considering loopholes in the attendance system during the pandemic, the hospital authorities made signing the register mandatory every day. They instructed us to use sanitisers before and after signing,” said the official.
According to the official, the pandemic and lockdown was one of the reasons for delay in implementing the new system, as there were limitations in reporting to work and quarantine procedures were in place. But some of the healthcare workers at government hospitals added that it gave an opportunity to many of the staffers to skip work, and some resorted to proxy signing.
“We did not sign the register either, as many staff members raised the fear of COVID-19 transmission. So, the names of those on duty were noted and marked by one individual every day,” said a health worker from another government hospital in the city.
“The biometric system need not be mandated in the case of on-field workers and others. However, a system to check irregularities is needed for government hospitals staff and doctors,” said Dr G Ravindranath, secretary, Doctor’s Association for Social Equality.
However, Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine officials said many were on-field workers for whom biometric system was not feasible. Also, officials have meetings scheduled in different venues, which makes the system impractical, they added.
After complaints of proxy attendance at several government hospitals, the deans have been instructed to personally review the complaints. The attendance system should be verified and matched periodically. In case of individual complaints, the Directorate of Medical Education should be alerted, along with the Dean of the medical college and hospital.
Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said the system was in place at several government hospitals. “The attendance system is being checked by the deans so individual complaints can be investigated by them. There cannot be a generalised system for all the departments, as the work profiles are different. In government hospitals, it can be implemented in departments other than surgery, community medicine and others that require field work,” said Radhakrishnan.