One year of Capt Amarinder govt in Punjab: Few strides made, but not yet in the pink of health

In Part 2 of the five-part series, HT covers the health sector under the one-year rule of the Congress in state.

punjab Updated: Mar 12, 2018 09:14 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Capt Amarinder govt,Punjab govt,health sector
The state health department’s failure to attract fresh blood of doctors due to meagre salaries during their contract period has resulted in an increased patient load at government hospitals in Punjab.(HT File)

It is considered one of the toughest departments to run due to the pressure that lobbies and employee unions exert. But the state health department in the one-year rule of Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government has been successful in making a good start having made some crucial strides.

Run by Brahm Mohindra, the senior-most minister in Amarinder’s cabinet, the department took some important decisions — such as introduction of biometric attendance in hospitals to check absenteeism, especially among doctors — whose successful implementation may go a long way in sorting out basic problems the department is riddled with.

Three Key Promises
  • Health Insurance for all Status: Provision of Rs 100 crore made in current budget. Likely to be launched this year.
  • Opening of five new medical colleges. Status: The process has started. The first medical college will come up in Mohali.
  • Mohalla clinics for every 1,000 population in rural and urban areas Status: Yet to see the light of day. However, 200 wellness centres have come up.

The doctors have been opposing the biometric attendance system tooth and nail.

Also, the government’s decision to initiate free dialysis facilities at all district and sub-divisional hospitals, open health wellness centres in rural areas, make all blood banks online besides e-monitoring of drug stocks to check corruption at the level of civil surgeon offices also earned praise.

Since the Punjab government pays only basic salary to its employees in the first three years of their service, the department was not able to attract fresh batches of doctors due to meagre salaries during their contract period. Many doctors leave the job midway or were not ready to join the services in the first place.

But the department also overcame this impediment by aggressively taking up the matter with the chief minister and got permission to pay full salaries to doctors as a special case. It also claims to have recruited in 48 specialist doctors, 38 medical officers and 11 hospital administrators in the past six months.

“The authority health minister Brahm Mohindra enjoys in this government has made a huge difference. During the previous two governments, the department was run by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers who had less authority as compared to their counterparts from the party’s senior alliance partner Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Things are moving quite faster now,” a senior specialist doctor posted in Jalandhar stated.

“The previous govt’s misrule had crippled the sector. Machinery worth hundreds of crores was procured without having specialists running it. No efforts were made to recruit doctors. But in just one year, you can see the change at the grassroots level.” — Brahm Mohindra, Punjab health minister

A long way to go

However, the department is still a long way to go when it comes to meet the shortage of doctors with posts of 473 specialist doctors and 360 MBBS doctors lying vacant, taking a heavy toll on services at the rural level.

It has failed to control the alleged loot by private hospitals — a major concern the public has been flagging from time to time.

The claims to introduce an Act to regulate the functioning of private hospitals have remained on paper only. The number of cases of dengue was also recorded at an all-time high in 2017.

The department even started outpatient opioid-assisted treatment (OOAT) to provide free medicines to drug addicts but it is yet to work in tandem with the special task force (STF) formed by the government to make a joint strategy to fight the drug menace.

First Published: Mar 12, 2018 09:10 IST