Under political pressure, the Uttarakhand government deleted Almora-Bageshwar districts from the first phase of the World Bank health project and added Udham Singh Nagar district instead, said a health official requesting anonymity.
He said Almora-Bageshwar districts were remote and needed immediate attention for strengthening the government health units.
The World Bank in September 2014 approved `125 million dollars to Uttarakhand government for strengthening government health units.
In this regard, the project was divided in two phases. As per the format, one district hospital and two community health centres (CHC) will be connected to become a ‘cluster’. Private stakeholder will operate these clusters on public private partnership (PPP) mode.
The health department of Uttarakhand is short of doctors. Of nearly 2,200 positions in the structure, there are only 1,100 doctors presently working in government health units in the state, including 200 contractual doctors. As a result, health units in remote districts of Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli, Pithoragarh and Champawat are reeling under staff crunch.
In Almora, the condition of staff is concerning. Out of 257 total positions of doctors, only 117 are filled. And to top it, 17 doctors on filled positions are not working in the district. Remaining 100 positions are vacant.
Chief medical officer (CMO) Almora RC Pant said, “Almora is a remote district and we have only 100 doctors working. As the geographical challenges are intense in this area, there was definite need to pick it on priority basis so that people residing in remote villages could avail better health services. But, politics took away the opportunity from its people.”
One of the key objective of the project is to provide doctors, paramedical staff and technicians at the chosen clusters through private stakeholder, salaries of whom would be supported through World Bank funding.
The health department will only provide its current infrastructure and appoint a superintendent to monitor activities. A third party will also be involved besides, government and private stakeholder that will be responsible for monitoring and evaluation of the project.
Prem Lal, director and incharge of the project said, “We want rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the private party and therefore, we have introduced provision of a third party as well that will be responsible for keeping close watch over all activities.”
Surendra Kumar, media incharge of chief minister (CM) Harish Rawat, said, “We are already constructing a medical college at Almora that will help in resolving staff and infrastructure limitations of the district. The reason for choosing US Nagar is to develop a Trauma Centre at a place, which is accessible. However, remote districts will be automatically connected to this centre.”