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Delhi’s health has long been ignored

Health Minister Kiran Walia promises more hospital facelifts and medical insurance for the poor, writes Jaya Shroff Bhalla.

delhi Updated: Feb 11, 2010 23:28 IST
Jaya Shroff Bhalla

“These facilities should reach the last man standing in the queue,” Kiran Walia, 65, had said, soon after assuming office as Delhi’s Health Minister in November 2009. HT caught up with the former political science teacher on Thursday on how far her ministry has come in reaching its goal, “health care to all.”

Many Delhi government hospitals are gearing for a turn-around. What are your comments on that?

Yes. The health sector in Delhi had been ignored for too long.
We had to do a lot of shuffling and suspensions of hospital heads in first few months to usher in change.

Has the change in leadership helped?

Certainly. Since there was very little micro level check on hospitals, corruption and appalling trade practices had crept in. In fact we are thankful to HT for highlighting them.

Has tackling corruption been an uphill task?

Yes! I've found it really hard to get files moving in the different departments after enquiries. Registering cases against corrupt officials and doctors has been equally demanding.

When you assumed office, you expressed enthusiasm about public private partnerships. Has there been a change in emotion?

Yes there has. We have felt cheated in the hands of the big corporates like Apollo and Fortis. After that we decided that our Dwarka hospital project will be a wholly government project.

Are you referring to the free treatment/ beds they had promised to below poverty line patients?

Yes. Our poor patients could avail benefits for no more than one and a half months after which Apollo appealed to Supreme Court, where they have succeeded in getting a stay, meaning the poor will have to pay for consumables and medications. As far as Fortis is concerned, they had assured us good ambulances but unfortunately we had to cancel the deal.

It was a Rs. 20 crore order for 150 ambulances. As we know they were to be used for the Commonwealth Games, how do you intend to fill the need?

We may need to rent them temporarily from the private hospitals. We will find a good stopgap arrangement.

What are your plans for the future?

This year, we intend to launch our health insurance scheme for the poor, medical call centre and a healthcare centre for mother and child.

Is there is date for launching the health insurance?

We have already formed the trust. CM Sheila Dikshit is the chairperson. We would like to launch the scheme within six months definitely.

Can Delhi expect to see some more teaching institutes?

Ambedkar Hospital, Liver and Billary Sciences Institute and Rajiv Gandhi Hospital in Dwarka will be teaching hospitals.

What would you say have been your achievements in the last two years?

We had wanted a Delhi cadre for doctors since 2006, which came through last year.
Now we will not have to look at the central cadre for recruiting doctors. The second major achievement is the partnership with Quality Council of India, which will ensure quality care in Delhi hospitals.