Nine months on, World Bank-funded health project yet to take off
The high-profile Uttarakhand Health System Development Project (UKHSDP) is yet to take off even though its been nine months that the stakeholders inked an agreement to improve both access and quality of healthcare services in all the 13 districts of the statedehradun Updated: Dec 30, 2017 19:52 IST
The high-profile Uttarakhand Health System Development Project (UKHSDP) is yet to take off even though its been nine months that the stakeholders inked an agreement to improve both access and quality of healthcare services in all the 13 districts of the state.
The Centre and the state had signed the agreement with the World Bank for the project in New Delhi on March 23. The World Bank is funding 100 million USD of the project’s total cost of 125 million USD (around Rs 800 crore). It noted how most public health facilities in hilly areas were ‘unable to function optimally because of large-scale vacancies of health staff’. One of the key areas of the project’s focus was to ‘finance innovative engagements with private health care providers’ to ensure quality health services even in distant corners of the state.
The health department called for bids twice for implementing the project, but sources said the offer did not gain enough traction from private players. Officials claimed the bidders “could not meet the technical qualifications”.
“We will now go for another tender (to invite private players for the project). But before that, we are working to fulfill conditions of the World Bank, which is to constitute the project steering committee and the project governing body at the state level that will look after (the project) implementation,” UKHSDP project director Chandresh Yadav told Hindustan Times.
The proposal for setting up the committees will be placed before the cabinet for its approval soon. “Once formed, the project steering committee will take a call on changes to be made in the conditions (to ensure a successful tender process this time), based on which fresh tender will be floated,” Yadav said.
Activists rued how projects directly associated with public health in the state – which is battling a shortage of more than 50% doctors – often suffered due to “lack of vision and political will by the government”. Health services are in a shambles in Uttarakhand, especially in remote and rural areas, with pregnant women being one of the prime sufferers, who are often forced to travel long distances in labor pain and deliver on roads owing to lack of doctors or staff in remote health centres. Around 31% deliveries were outside hospitals while around 29% births took place without any assistance of a doctor, nurse and health personnel, according to the latest National Family Health Survey.
“All of these are happening when the health portfolio itself is held by the chief minister himself. Even till date, the people from the hills travel long distances to places like Dehradun and Rishikesh to seek medical care. Primary and community health centres are in a poor shape due to lack of vision and implementation and difficult terrain,” Srinagar-based activist and Socialist Unity Center of India state convener Mukesh Semwal said.