February 01, 2013

Some steps taken to better health care in Bengal

It is an irresistible though disturbing reality of our times that our media discourse is driven by negative stories. The old adage that “good news is no news” has come to haunt us. In the past 18 months, the Trinamool Congress has been in office in West Bengal. We have not solved all the state’s problems and can make no grandiose and outlandish claims. Yet, we do have our achievements, solid advance and benchmarks we are proud of.

Unfortunately, none or little of this makes it to prime-time bulletins and screaming page-one headlines. Hence, I am adopting a mechanism of direct contact. Over the next few days, I will share with you details of what we have done in key sectors of the administration and development. On offer will be straightforward facts, no analyses or embellishments. Do read this and make up your minds for yourselves.

Let’s begin today with public health:
  • A 24-hour hour fair-price medicine shop has opened at Kolkata’s SSKM Hospital. M.R. Bangur Hospital, Barasat District Hospital, Jalpaiguri District Hospital, North Bengal Medical College and Hospital and Midnapore Medical College and Hospital already have this facility.
  • The Chief Minister has institutionalised monitoring of the public health network after surprise visits to SSKM Hospital, Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, Bagha Jatin State General Hospital, Chittaranjan Shishusadan Hospital and Dr B.C. Roy Children’s Hospital (all in Kolkata). Superintendents of state hospitals have to text message the Chief Minister’s Office each morning to report against certain parameters.
  • The state cabinet has agreed to establish the West Bengal Health Services Board to directly employ doctors and health workers. The Department of Health has announced a programme to train 50,000 candidates to fill the shortage of nurses in the state.
  • HR development and augmentation is back in focus. Government doctors who have worked for at least three years in remote, difficult and backward areas will now be entitled to a 50 per cent quota in post-graduate (PG) diploma seats and a 40 per cent quota in PG degree seats.
  • Doctors from medical colleges will be compulsorily required to work in sadar and rural hospitals at least two days a week. The number of seats in government medical colleges has been increased to 1,750 from 1,205. Two new medical colleges are coming up in Malda and Kamarhati (North 24 Paraganas).
  • A “sick neonatal care unit” has been inaugurated at Kolkata’s Dr B.C. Roy Hospital. Seven other state hospitals are to have similar units soon to care for critically-ill new-born children. These include four district hospitals in Howrah, Malda, Siliguri and Burdwan.
  • The government is upgrading district hospitals in Purulia, Burdwan, Birbhum, Malda and East Midnapore and Siliguri with private participation. The chief minister has inaugurated the “health city” complex in Bankura, which includes a medical college and hospital. She has also laid the foundation stone of a multispecialty hospital in Nandigram.
  • Twenty-five super-specialty hospitals are being planned in various district towns and sub-divisions using a public-private-partnership (PPP) model. Key initiatives have been taken to improve health infrastructure and indices in the Maoist-troubled Jangalmahal region.
  • The Kolkata Municipal Corporation has introduced a Universal Health Insurance Scheme for families living below the poverty line. The sum assured for each family is Rs 30,000 per annum. About 50,000 families have already been enrolled and have got their insurance cards. Cards for a further 50,000 families are ready and awaiting distribution. The scheme will be expanded in the coming year.