Post H1N1: Meghalaya’s Health care system struggling to cater to the masses

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Editorial

Thomas Lim
After two women tested positive for swine flu in the state capital- Shillong, health officials have been directed to take preventive measures and provide proper treatment to patients. It was stated that all hospitals in the state have also been alerted along with information, education and communication (IEC) materials to create awareness regarding swine flu, also known as influenza A (H1N1).
Whereas, at ground zero, the lifestyle continues as usual, unlike in the past where the mask was a common sight, this time one can hardly notice people wearing masks as a precaution and it is suspected as both the victims suspected to have contacted the H1N1 are from outside the state.

It is not true that the State Government is not focusing on Health Care in Meghalaya, but there is no attempt to expand the services keeping in sync with the population growth, hence leading to the overcrowding in most of Meghalaya Community Health Centres, Public Health Centres and hospitals. The population growth of Meghalaya is 10 percent higher than the National growth. Growth rate of India between 2001 and 2011 census is found to be 17.68, whereas decadal growth rate of Meghalaya in the decade is 27.95. As population rises without extension to the healthcare system, it is bound to collapse when emergency or plague like situation strikes.
The situation in the North Eastern Indira Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences (NEIGRIHMS), Shillong is an overcrowded one with long queues on a daily basis. This results in most of the people being told to seek reappointments with the concerned doctor as the sheer number of patients results in numerous delays. It is time for the institute to simplify the registration system, increase the consultation hours and of course fill up the vacant posts of the medico-practitioners to meet the demand.
According to the 2011 census, the growth rate of population in Meghalaya is the highest in the region due to the higher birth rates compared to other states, where the decadal growth rate of Arunachal is found to be 26.03, Assam – 17.07, Manipur – 12.5, Mizoram – 23.47, Nagaland – (-) 0.58 and Tripura 14.84. Yet the state have lost AIIMS - All India Institute Of Medical Science to Assam, the proposed two Medical colleges, one each in Shillong and Tura is yet to kick-start which has affected timely and proper health care in the state.
The situation was since pointed out by the then Chief Minister, Dr Donkupar Roy in the year 2008 that Meghalaya is facing a shortage of specialist doctors in the government-owned Community Health Centres (CHCs) across the state. There is an urgent need for surgeon, paediatricians, gynaecologists, anesthetists and specialists in medicine in the CHCs to provide medical health care to the people in the far-flung areas. But poor response from specialists from outside the state for appointment under National Rural Health Mission has further added to the problem.
There are also instances in the past where doctors have packed-up overnight and fled from Meghalaya due to extortion notices from underground outfits. There is also a shortage of other specialists like nephrologists to tackle increasing kidney diseases in the state. The sisters of the Missionaries of Charity, Nongpoh, Ri Bhoi district are also finding it difficult to find surgeons to take care of emergency needs.
The only pragmatic attempt to improve the healthcare in the region was made by Former Chief Minister, Kalikho Pul, during his short stint in office where he promised drastic changes to improve the health sector in Arunachal Pradesh and to ensure that, he had planned to establish well-equipped Zonal hospitals, besides recruiting 2,000 health care professionals at these facilities in 2016. It is hoped that the new government carries out his proposal which will be a boon to the state.
Pul was optimistic that Arunachal Pradesh will undergo the much-needed revolution in terms of its development. His government focused on this concept of zonal hospitals to be established in all centrally located places. These hospitals will be fully equipped with advanced medical instruments to provide free medicines and the patients will be treated by specialist doctors. The Chief Minister had also said that these zonal hospitals will negate the hardships faced by people of the state who have to travel to Tezpur, Guwahati, Shillong and even Delhi for medical treatment.
According to the Chief Minister, the list of places where these zonal hospitals will be established includes Bomdila, Ziro, Pasighat and Khonsa among others. A Zonal hospital in Ziro will cater to the medical needs of people in Kurumkumey, Subhansiri, Lower Subhansiri. Similarly, for the Siang belt there will be a zonal hospital in Pasighat. For Tirap, Longding and Changlang there will be a zonal hospital in Khonsa.
According to the plan, a zonal hospital will also be established in Tezu, catering to the medical needs of the people in Dibang Valley, Lohit, Anjaw and Namsai, among others.
In view of such a scenario in the health sector of the North East, Member of the North Eastern Council (NEC) CK Das has stressed on the need to have 75 per cent seat reservation for locals in order to overcome the problem of shortage of doctors in the region. Stating that the problem of shortage of doctors is huge, one of the major problems is because 50 per cent of the seats for post graduate in medicine in colleges in the NE are reserved for people from outside the region, due to this, the region is also facing huge shortage of specialists.
The region doesn’t have a sufficient number of specialists like cardiologist, anesthesiologist, neurologist and others, Das opined that it is only when the proposal of increasing the reserved seats is being considered that the region can produce more doctors as well as more medical colleges.
Meghalaya too should propose health care projects keeping in view the high growth of population, and the urgent need of specialized medical care for the citizens here as the health sector in the state has reach saturation point and is on the verge of total collapse if attention are not paid to it immediately.


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