LG okays setting up State Mental Health Authority; slams Delhi govt for 5-year delay, ET HealthWorld
New Delhi, Lt Governor VK Saxena has approved setting up State Mental Health Authority, pointing out a delay of around five years on the part of the Delhi government in constituting the panel for it, officials at the LG office said Monday. Since the GNCTD Amendment Act is in force, the LG wants to recommend members in accordance with his discretion and that is the “actual reason” why he is “so unhappy” about the experts not being nominated as members in the Authority, Delhi Health Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj said in a statement.
The Central Mental Health Care Act, 2017 mandates setting up of State Mental Health Authority (SMHA) for the welfare of patients with mental illness. The Act also mandates the authority to have independent domain experts, patient representatives, care givers and NGO apart from ex-officio government members.
“Delhi is yet to have its SMHA. The Delhi government, under pressure from the Centre, finally moved a proposal to constitute Delhi SMHA after a delay of 5 years, only with ex-officio members,” officials said.
The LG while giving approval to the proposal “slammed government apathy” in the matter and directed it to immediately initiate the process of appointing independent domain experts, representatives of patients and care givers, as well as NGOs to the authority, they said.
In his noting on the file for approval to SMHA, the LG pointed that the authority was to be set up within nine months of the enactment of Mental Health Care Act 2017 with nod by the President.
The Act stipulates that the SMHA will have one each of an independent and eminent psychiatrist, mental health professional, psychiatrist social worker, clinical psychologist, mental health nurse (all with 15 years’ experience), as well as two representatives each of patients, care givers and NGOs, according to the LG’s office.
Such wide representation in SMHA was obviously aimed at covering all aspects of mental health care so that it functions as a dynamic body and not just another bureaucratic regulator, he said in the file note.
“In the light of the above, it is surprising that the proposal for constitution of SMHA, after a lapse of more than 5 years since the enactment of the Act in 2017, has been put up now and that too, comprising only of ex-officio members,” Saxena noted on the file.
This “cavalier approach” exhibited by the Health department in the constitution of such an important statutory authority is “deeply disconcerting,” the LG observed.
The proposal for SMHA was approved by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Health minister Saurabh Bhardwaj before seeking nod of the LG on it.
“What is even more concerning is that it took the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, to request through its communication dated August 29, 2022, to take early actions in establishing SMHA, for the Delhi government to be shaken out of its inertia,” the LG said.
Even then the Delhi government “did not care to expedite” such statutorily warranted action, and the proposal kept pending before the Health minister for almost four and half months, he said.
“I am constrained to flag this lackadaisicalness and expect that the chief minister will ensure appropriate measures to address such concerns in the future,” he said in the file note.
Giving his approval to the proposal, the LG said the Health department of Delhi government was required to refer it to the Ministry of Home Affairs for seeking approval of President of India on it, in accordance with the provisions under Section 45D of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2023.
The SMHA is mandated to play a pivotal role in registration, supervision, and development of quality care and services along with norms for mental health establishments within the state.
The authority, according to the Act, is also responsible for registering clinical psychologists, mental health nurses, and psychiatric social workers, as mental health professionals in a state.
Bhardwaj said if the LG is so concerned for health of citizens, he should act against officers who “abruptly stopped” computerised OPD counters in government hospitals, and those who “conspired” to stop free laboratory services for poor patients.
He also asked why the nominated members were not notified for Pharmacy Council in May 2023.
He claimed the file for notification of nominated members was sent to the LG on May 16, 2023 but the LG office returned it citing that “only elected members” may be notified and the “experts may not be nominated now”.
- Published On Sep 12, 2023 at 05:15 AM IST
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