Uttarakhand health department needs Oxygen to survive

Dehradun : Twelve years since it came into existence, six chief ministers at the helm, including veteran Congress leader Narain Dutt Tewari, who aspired to be the Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi’s death and would have probably been there, had he not lost the Lok Sabha election from Nainital, but neither has a health policy been formed in Uttarakhand to provide better medical facilities to the people, nor to ensure that doctor fan out to the interiors in the upper reaches.

It is a true but sad story that almost everything and anything happens to be going topsy turvy in this small mountain state.

It is no wonder that in less than a decade of it being given statehood, even those who had faced lathis and bullets of the armed police and police personnel, started wishing that the state had never been formed, and they had remained, albeit neglected, as a part of Uttar Pradesh.

This could well go into Ripley’s ‘Believe it or Not’, but of the 2422 posts of doctors sanctioned in the state over half, that is 1255 had remained vacant.

This fact was admitted by the state health minister, who at the meeting of health ministers in New Delhi recently said that over 50 per cent posts of doctors are vacant in the state, and as such the centre should make provision for doctors during Kumbh Mela and the annual Mansarovar Yatra to Kailash.

What could be the quality if health services being provided to the people in the rural areas, when the primary health centres and even the government hospitals located in the interiors, are manned by pharmacists doing the job of doctors.

How can any government justify that pharmacists are doing the work of doctors and many of the primary health centres are locked for want of doctors and even para-medical staff.

Almost all chief ministers, from Narain Dutt Tewari to Vijay Bahuguna of the Congress now and the likes of Maj Gen (retd) B C Khanduri to Ramesh Pokhriyal, Nitya Nand Swamy and Koshiyari, none have been able to provide even name sake of health facility to the rural masses.

There are attacks by wild animals on children and women, who have to be sent to health centres hundreds of kilometers away and most of them have succumbed to their injuries enroute. But who is bothered.

Except in the districts where there are townships the presence of doctors is over 50 per cent, but in all the other districts it is less than that.

In Dehra Dun, there are 246 doctors against a sanctioned strength of 348, in Nainital there are 162 doctors against a sanctioned strength of 294 and in Udhamsingh Nagar there are 99 doctors against the sanctioned strength of 168. But even the doctors are concentrated in the city, while the distant health centres are not manned.

Compare this to Champawat district where there are only 30 doctors against the sanctioned strength of 90, or Uttarkashi where there are just 46 doctors against 110, or Chamoli where there are 50 doctors against 149 posts, or Pithoragarh where there are only 59 doctors against 159 posts.

Of the 13 districts in the state just three have more than 50 per cent of the sanctioned strength, while in the remaining districts the situation is dismal.

While schemes to make quick money are thought of and put into practice immediately, but projects for providing better amenities and facilities to the people are put on the back burner and excuses dished out for not either announcing them or implementing them.

This is the only reason that during the 12 years of statehood and six chief ministers, not even one though it proper to put a proper health policy in place, so that the medical needs of the people in the far-flung interiors and hinterlands of this small mountain state could be met.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

1 Comment

  • In upper reaches of Tehri, Uttarkashi, Chamoli & Pithoragarh, safai karmacharis distribute coloured medicine tablets.In such interiors,Jhola Chap /Bengali Doctors are having a great time.When you ask the locals as to why they are not reporting about these imposters, they retort quickly to say that at least some medical relief is coming to them! Strange are the ways of God in the Dev Bhumi & strange are the ways of Uttarakhand’s governance.No good will ever come out of the recent hype created in Gairsain. The entire cabinet must visit all the 12 passes on the Sino-Indian Border from Lipu Lekh Westwards.They shall then come to realise the hardships & problems of our people.Why cannot the Doctors be paid handsome allowances & perks ?There is no transport for them.There is no accommodation for them.There are no schools for their children.Under these circumstances, who shall ascend to these heights.For the last twelve years, there has been no change in the depleted strength of the doctors.It fluctuates between 1200 to 1250.Border belts are getting denuded with migration continuing unabated.Lack of employment, lack in quality of life,lack of small scale industries,dismal educational facilities & lack of medical aid are the primary reasons.Do not drive the Hill People to the wall by staying put in the Paradise City.Peoples’ frustration & anguish may suddenly explode to uncontrollable limits !!

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