“Dream big”, Dr Harsh Vardhan tells AIIMS medicos
Bhubaneswar ,The central government is committed to making Odisha a model state in terms of health infrastructure and expects the state’s competent and committed medical professionals to hold up an example for the rest of India. Stating this at a press conference here today at the end of his two-day Odisha tour, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, said that AIIMS-Bhubaneswar and its upcoming satellite in Balasore, with all their state-of-art equipment and specialised departments, would entail an eventual investment of about Rs 1,500-2,000 crore.
More investment is being considered for Odisha as this state has the potential to be the leading health services destination in eastern India, the Health Minister stated. The private sector is also setting up hospitals. It also has a vibrant voluntary sector in the form of NGOs and grassroots health activists. Modernisation of existing state government hospitals is continuing simultaneously.
“The Puri district hospital should be improved immediately because during next July-August’s Nabakalebar festival more than 50 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit. I went into the details of the proposed expansion project to make it a medical college and asked the local authorities to expedite the process of land acquisition so that the work could begin at the earliest,” the Minister said.
Dr Harsh Vardhan inspected the hospital this morning to get an idea of the existing facilities. The 325-bed hospital, constructed in 1840, has only 34 doctors, 36 nurses and 52 attendants. He also spoke to the patients, some of whom were accommodated on the floor for want of adequate number of beds. The Minister learnt from them their problems, which were the result of poverty and he turned to the staff and district administration officials for more details as to their nutrition, sanitation, income consistency, etc.
Noting that the number of beds in Puri district hospital has grown by less than 1 percent since 1980 despite the town attracting the largest number of tourists in India, Dr Harsh Vardhan assured that he would personally oversee the implementation of the pending works so that the manpower and facility of the hospital could be augmented in time for the Nabakalebar festivities.
Reviewing the state’s health services profile, Dr Harsh Vardhan noted that Odisha’s infant and maternal mortality rates are higher than the national average. The number of primary health centres is still below target. Most stark is the shortfall of doctors and key specialists like gynaecologists and paediatricians, nurses, health workers, technicians and other vital human resource, he noted.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said that in his interactions with students and faculty members of AIIMS-Bhubaneswar yesterday he had urged them to convert the dream of accomplishing the health goals of the country into a reality.
He told the faculty members, “You are doctors of AIIMS and therefore something special in the perception of people. You are expected to be an intellectual, gifted with extraordinary acumen. Society and the country expect you to brainstorm on the problems of the health sector and design solutions which could improve the lives of ordinary Indians.”
His advice for the students was, “Please be conscious that you are receiving world class medical education at next to no cost to yourselves. To develop one doctor in AIIMS the taxpayer pays Rs 8-10 crore. The poorest of poor Oriyas and Indians are subsidising you. So when you become doctors please work unselfishly so that India can achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.”
Dr Harsh Vardhan acknowledged that doctors and medical students face numerous problems. But he urged them to be more positive and see the bigger picture. “Take the paucities as challenges. Each challenge teaches you a new lesson. What separates ordinary doctors from AIIMS-trained doctors is ingenuity – the quality of being unmoved by complicated cases and cool-headedly applying novel treatment lines. The training for that comes from beyond the text books,” he remarked.
The Health Minister noted that a large number of trained medicos are leaving India each year for more lucrative careers abroad. Though the government does not have a policy of making them repay the subsidies that funded their education, it is up to the doctors to be more concerned about the health goals of the nation and contribute their mite to achieving them, he stated.
National Health Mission
Dr Harsh Vardhan said he is in the process of reviewing the National Health Mission (NHM) which will be completing a decade in April 2015. He is constantly interacting with experts from diverse backgrounds on meeting the unachieved goals, he said.
“There is a need to make NHM more inclusive. I plan to involve well meaning citizens, NGOs, religious groups and seek local level solutions. We will make ‘health for all’ a social movement,” the Minister said.