Construction of ESI hospital hangs fire

By B. Madhu Gopal

The construction of a proposed ESI super-specialty hospital at Sheelanagar, for which the foundation stone was laid over five years ago, continues to hang fire.

When asked about the delays dogging the project, ESI Corporation (ESIC) Member Prasanta N. Chowdhury said he suspects a nexus between ESI authorities and some local politicians.

Mr. Chowdhury, who is also the national secretary of CITU, was in the city to participate in a series of meetings in the run-up to a two-day general strike being called against the privatisation of PSUs.

20 lakh beneficiaries

“This hospital is required to cater to the needs of 20 lakh ESI beneficiaries, consisting of five lakh insured persons and their families. The land has been identified long ago and the previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government had given nine acres as against the 10 acres sought by the government for construction of the hospital,” Mr. Chowdhury told The Hindu.

“When completed, it would be the only 500-bed ESI super-specialty hospital in A.P. The land identified at Sheelanagar is located close to the national highway going through the city and is easily accessible. Last month, I had informed the Centre that there is no shortage of land and it accepted my suggestion for vertical expansion. This hospital can cater to the needs of ESI beneficiaries from all over A.P. as well as from south Odisha,” the ESIC Member said.

“I will discuss the issue at the ESIC board meeting to be held in February and we will exert pressure on the Centre for early commencement of the construction work,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

‘Land grab attempts’

“Attempts were made by vested interests to grab the land. We (CITU representatives) removed the encroachments and gave a strong warning to those who tried to grab the land. We are planning to launch an agitation if the construction is delayed further,” said G. Subba Rao, a CPI(M) leader.

It may be recalled that the then Union Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya had laid the foundation for construction of the ESI Hospital on April 11, 2016. The ESI Sub-Regional Office (SRO), Visakhapatnam, had 8,234 units covered under the ESI scheme. The SRO, Visakhapatnam had six branch offices, one ESI Hospital, 14 dispensaries, five panel clinics and one diagnostic centre under its jurisdiction at that time. BJP State president Somu Veerraju had said in the past that the Centre was ready to give funds and the YSRCP government should allot a little more land for construction of the hospital and a medical college.

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