Not qualified doctors but ayurvedic vaids and homoeopaths untrained in complicated diagnose and surgery now will run the children's health programme in Punjab's schools.
This is by an order that Punjab health department has issued on the directions of its minister, Surjit Kumar Jyani. The union government supplies money under National Rural Health Mission to run the school health programme that the health department's medical officers and the development department's rural medical officers conducted until now.
Twice a year, the doctors screened students for almost all diseases, including congenital heart disorder, anaemia, skin infection, and eye illness; and then referred them to major hospitals. In 2008, the state had signed a deal with the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, for the treatment of the schoolchildren battling congenital and rheumatic heart diseases.
Punjab Civil Medical Service (PCMS) Association and Rural Medical Services Association (RMSA) have opposed the decision as an attempt to deteriorate the rural health services in the state. "Poor children study in government rural schools; and the government has just deprived them of good health services," said Rural Medical Services Association president Dr Aslam Parvez.
Experts have calculated the cases of rheumatic and congenital heart disease to be 1 in every 1,000 children. Of these, 10% cases of rheumatic heart disease and 50% of congenital heart disease require surgery, a specialty for which homeopaths and ayurvedic vaids are not qualified and trained.
Punjab health minister Surjit Kumar Jyani was unavailable for comments but principal secretary for health Vini Mahajan, who was available, said the vaids and homoeopaths would receive some orientation about screening children. "They are not going to treat the children but will only screen them," she said.
Asked what had prompted the decision, she said the homeopaths and ayurvedic vaids were part of the healthcare system.