RURAL HEALTH services in Madhya Pradesh could get a much-needed impetus by 2008, once the highly ambitious telemedicine project of New Delhi-based Sir Ganga Ram Hospital takes shape in the State. To be executed on public-private partnership basis – and yet to be approved by the State Government - the project envisages providing expert health facilities to rural areas through telemedicine.
The hospital – already conducting similar pilot projects in Rajasthan, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh – plans to link certain Community Health Centres (CHC) in Madhya Pradesh through its telemedicine system with support from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the Union Science and Technology Department, the Union Health Ministry and the State Government.
“Our specialists will be able to provide diagnostic treatment for various ailments – hitherto difficult to treat in rural health centres – while sitting at New Delhi through telemedicine,’’ Sir Ganga Ram Hospital Board of Management Chairman Dr B K Rao told the Hindustan Times on Monday.
Dr Rao met Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the evening to discuss the project and its viability in Madhya Pradesh. Once approved by the State Government, the Ganga Ram Hospital will set up the infrastructure for telemedicine system in the chosen CHCs, Dr Rao said earlier in the day.
Under the project, the State Government’s existing buildings at the CHCs will be utilised for setting up the telemedicine machinery – to be provided free of cost by ISRO.
Sir Ganga Ram Hospital will renovate these buildings and it will also provide the required technical manpower to operate the system for the first couple of years of the project’s implementation.
“Establishment of each such centre will incur an expenditure of approximately Rs 18 lakh and the total cost of the entire project in Madhya Pradesh will depend upon on the number of such centres,’’ Dr Rao stated.
“The project will help the State Government attract doctors to work in rural areas too, as a doctor would be able to learn a lot through regular interaction with specialists at New Delhi,’’ Dr Rao pointed out. He added doctors usually shy away from rural postings, as they find the work unsatisfactory and feel they are doing injustice to their professional training.
“Once doctors realise they will actually gain something rather than loose from their rural posting experience, they will come forward to work in the CHC telemedicine centres,’’ Dr Rao emphasised.
Specialists at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital will also visit CHCs once in a couple of months to conduct surgeries and other procedures on patients identified over the period through telemedicine diagnosis.
The hospital plans to engage AC Nielsen ORG Marg to conduct a field survey of the project’s feasibility in Madhya Pradesh and locate areas where it could be set up. “Our survey will involve extensive interactions with panchayats, anganwadi workers, rural folk and other field health staff besides regular discussions with Government officials,’’ Dr Rao said.
After the State Government gives its green signal to the project, the entire process – including physical location of areas, renovation of infrastructure, and setting up of equipment – is expected to take around eight or nine months and the project could be expected to take off by the beginning of 2008, Dr Rao expressed hope.