Health schemes halted due to lack of doctors

Skilled medicos unavailable to launch cancer, heart programmes

At a review meeting on Thursday, most of the states pointed out that they could not launch the scheme simply because specialist doctors were not available in district hospitals. Specialists are essential to screen cancer patients based on their symptoms.
“Adequate number of doctors and their training remain a problem. Shortage of doctors can only be met with multi-skilling,” Union Health Secretary P K Pradhan said after the review.

Training module

The director general of health services in the ministry has now prepared a training module to help general medicine doctors to pick up the basic cancer screening skills in district hospitals.

But since the process of identify the doctors and give them training would take time, both schemes will continue to remain non-functional till the entire structure is in place.

Though screening for cancer and heart disease were part of the government’s overall strategy to tackle the growing burden of non-communicable diseases, a headway has only been made in diabetes diagnosis.

Regular checks at the district and sub-centre level health care centres reveal 7 to 16 per cent diabetes prevalence in 30 districts.

Far behind target

But even this pilot programme is nowhere close to attaining its original target of diabetes screening in 100 districts in 21 states, though Pradhan claimed that the target would be met by March 2012.

In the last two years, the Centre released Rs 137 crore for the national programme on non-communicable diseases, most of which was spent on diabetes screening. Nothing much happened on the ground.

Tricky area

The tricky area, Pradhan claimed, was 20 per cent contribution component from the state health department for which they had to seek permissions from their respective finance departments and sign a memorandum of understanding with the Centre. This took time. To meet its target, the Centre now plans to launch the diabetes screening programme in a campaign mode in 20,000 rural sub-centres, each of which would screen 2,000-2,500 people in the remaining four months of this financial year.

Renewed stress

The renewed stress on non-communicable diseases was given because more than 65 per cent of India's death count would be due to non-communicable diseases by 2020.
“As many as 3.78 million Indians died in 1990 constituting 40.4 per cent of all deaths. The number is projected to reach 7.63 million by 2020, which will be  66.7 per cent of total death count,” said Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

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