Punjab will have to decide soon whether to carry on with the chief minister's photograph on '108' ambulance or continue getting the 20% central funding for this emergency service.
Announcing the condition at a press conference here on Saturday, union minister of state for health and family welfare Santosh Chowdhary said on Saturday that all states had been issued the guidelines against putting politicians' images on the ambulances deployed for public cause with the help of Central assistance under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM).
On March 16, the union ministry of health and family welfare had issued the guidelines to all the state to adopt "universal display design and colour scheme" for mobile medical units (MMUs). "If the guidelines are not implemented, the Indian government will be constrained to discontinue the financial support to the MMUs," the circular stated.
The Punjab government is yet to take a decision on the proposed removal of the photographs of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal from the 240 ambulances in the state. "Several states have followed in line and some were yet to rectify this practice," said Chowdhary. She added that no part of the Central grant had, so far, been withdrawn, as the states were yet to decide.
The '108' service in the state was introduced in 2009. The state health department got 60% Central funds in the first year, 40% in the second and 20% thereafter. The Election Commission of India (ECI) had also asked the CM's photos to be removed off the ambulances during the 2012 assembly elections as model code of conduct.
Chowdhary also expressed the Centre's "serious concern" over many vacancies of specialist doctor in Punjab, adding that the state had orders to bridge the gap at the earliest. Of nearly 1,800 posts of the MD (specialist) doctor, more than 600 are vacant, while the state has 2,150 MBBS doctors against 2,300 sanctioned posts.
"The state is not following the proper procedure of recruiting doctors through the Punjab Public Services Commission (PPSC)," said the union minister at a press conference here after her review meeting with the senior state health officials. "Poor patients are not getting proper healthcare in the state, especially in the backward areas, in spite of the provision of huge funds under the NRHM," she said.
The minister parried away a question when asked about specific gaps identified in the implementation of the NRHM in the state, saying she had joined (as Central minister) recently.
"Spreading tertiary care to civil hospitals state subject'
Chowdhary said she could not comment on the demand to bring tertiary healthcare from the medical colleges to the civil hospitals as well, looking at the rush at the PGI (Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) in Chandigarh. "It's a state subject," she said.
She acknowledged that a huge section of society, especially the poor, had no access to the cure for chronic diseases such as cancer and kidney failure. "The state should curb alcoholism and drug addiction, two main causes of serious diseases," she said.
10 de-addiction centres to come up in Punjab
The Centre has extended a grant of Rs 6 crore for the proposed 10 drug de-addiction centres in Punjab. Each of these 10-bed centres has been allocated Rs 60 lakh. The first centre has become operational at Khyala Kalan near Mansa, while the others will come up at Hoshiarpur, Batala, Barnala, Sangrur, Gurdaspur, Ludhiana, Malerkotla, Jagraon and Balachaur.