Taking note of the issues raised in HT’s Sick Hospitals investigation, Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Friday promised to bring primary healthcare to the doorstep of every Delhiite with neighbourhood clinics, diagnostic labs and free ambulance services.
“Currently, Delhi hospitals score two on (a scale of) 10,” admitted Jain. “Give me two years. They will at least score a six on 10. HT should do a follow-up in two years and hold me on it,” he said.
HT’s special series which exposed problems of overcrowding, absenteeism, indifferent staff, medicine shortage and free run by touts at government hospitals concluded with healthcare experts coming together to discuss possible solutions.
The panel comprising Dr K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India; Dr Naresh Trehan, chairman, Medanta hospital and Dr Keval K Talwar, former chairman of the Medical Council of India came up with a five-point agenda after two hours of discussion with the health minister.
Deconstructing the traditional public health delivery system, the panel proposed to tackle overcrowding by promoting “reverse referral” of patients needing basic care from large hospitals to neighbourhood dispensaries. “Why should a person go to AIIMS to get his blood pressure taken? In two years, Delhi’s 1,000 mohalla (neighbourhood) clinics and 50 emergency labs will become the first line of diagnosis and treatment,” said Jain.
The minister also proposed to operationalise in the next two years free check-ups for children up to five years old and free ambulance service from home to hospitals, including private ones.
Emulating Tamil Nadu, Delhi may soon implement centralised procurement of drugs and equipment wherein the government places bulk orders with the manufacturers to be routed to hospitals later. “In Tamil Nadu, pooled procurement of medicines and equipment for the entire public health system is done through direct negotiation with manufacturers which lowers cost and ensures quality,” said Dr Reddy. “Delhi will do the same,” said Jain.
The panel also made optimising the existing infrastructure and tapping into latest technology a priority. “IT is a huge resource and should be used for tracking patients, monitoring stores, and teaching and updating skills,” said Dr Trehan.
Going a step further, Jain promised paperless hospitals. “Work has begun to issue all patients health cards and all health workers tablets to access medical data stored in the cloud, but this will take longer,” he said. He also proposed raising a corps of one lakh health volunteers.
The minister also expressed confidence that Delhi’s increased budget of `4,787 crore -- a jump of 45% over the last year -- will fast-track upgradation of the city’s health infrastructure.