Riding High on the Power of IT : Vini Mahajan

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Vini Mahajan

Vini Mahajan
Principal Secretary, Department of Health and
Family Welfare, Government of Punjab

“We are committed to providing preventive  and curative health services to all the people of Punjab,” says Vini Mahajan

What are the key initiatives that you have taken to bring about improvement in healthcare in Punjab?
The Health and Family Welfare Department is committed to provide preventive and curative health services to the people of the State through an efficient network of medical institutions, such as sub-centres, subsidiary health centres, which include dispensaries, clinics, etc; primary health centres; community health centres; sub-divisional and district hospitals, government owned medical and dental colleges. We have initiated large number of schemes covering all aspects of healthcare. This includes schemes for certain specified sections of population like the Mother and Child Tracking System under NRHM.

I would also like to tell you about a very special scheme we have launched that is unique in the country. Under this scheme every girl child will get free medical treatment up to the age of five in all government hospitals. The Health Department has announced that it will give an amount of `1,000 to expectant mothers at the time of delivery under Mata Kaushalaya Kalyan Yojana (MKKY). This scheme is meant to promote institutional deliveries in the government hospitals. Our emergency response ambulance service ‘108’ is doing very well. We have implemented essential drugs list through which we provide many kinds of drugs and treatments totally free of cost to patients who come to government hospitals. We provide generic cancer drugs, which are very expensive, at subsidised rates.

There is deficit of doctors in rural areas in most parts of the country. What steps are being taken by your department to bring about improvement in the presence of trained health officials in the rural areas of the state?
There were some problems in recruitment process in the past due to which there was lack of good doctors in rural areas. Now we are doing recruitments in a manner that is geared to achieve certain outcomes. We have recruited 300 MBBS medical officers in the recent past. We also conduct regular walk-in interviews for specialists. In addition, we are focusing on maximum optimum utilisation of resources. Punjab already has good infrastructure and ambulance services. We plan to build many more hospitals in all parts of the state. There will be 22 district hospitals, 41 sub division hospitals and 37 block community hospitals. We are also in the process of upgrading infrastructure in our hospitals. In order to encourage doctors to work in rural areas, we are providing certain incentives. And we are getting good response from them.

Also Read: Vini Mahajan becomes Punjab’s first woman Chief Secretary

Sometimes people in rural areas are not aware about government schemes and initiatives. What steps are you taking to ensure that everyone is acquainted with the state government’s initiatives for making better healthcare facilities accessible to all?
You are correct. It takes time for the news of any new initiative from the government to percolate down to the citizens. But if the initiative is good, people will eventually come to know about it through word of mouth. Our schemes like MKKY have led to significant increase in the number of deliveries taking places in government hospitals. Some more efforts are newer and they will gradually show effect once they get stabilised.

We are also using DBT for transfer of funds under the Janani Shishu Suraksha Karyakram. In this case also we are getting good response. We are using Information Technology in a big way to reach out to the people and acquaint them of various aspects of healthcare. With the help of IT, we monitor work done under NRHM. We are also using IT to track the status of pregnant women. We have installed a very good Hospital Information Management System. We are monitoring the performance of our doctors and institutions online. We are using IT for both data management analysis and disseminating information.

Key Initiatives

>> Scheme for free medical treatment to every girl child up to the age of five years in all government hospitals
>> Mata Kaushalaya Kalyan Yojana offers grant of `1,000 to expectant mothers at the time of delivery in order to promote institutional deliveries in government hospitals
>> Successful emergency response ambulance service ‘108’
>> Scheme for providing essential drugs and treatments totally free of cost to patients in government hospitals
>> Provision for selling expensive cancer drugs at subsidised rates

Many people from rural places are working in urban cities and they find it difficult to avail health services. What steps are you taking to provide healthcare services in the urban cities?
No paperwork is required in government hospitals for patients to avail medical treatment. The government has launched National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) to bring improvement in the healthcare services in urban cities. This scheme will cover 41 cities across the state of Punjab. The NUHM will meet health needs of the urban poor, particularly the slum dwellers by making available to them essential primary healthcare services. This will be done by investing in high-calibre health professionals, appropriate technology through PPP, and health insurance for urban poor. We are identifying urban slums where we will provide preventative and curative healthcare services to the people.

We are using Information Technology in a big way to reach out to the people and acquaint them of various aspects of healthcare

Tell us about the status of medical education in the state of Punjab.
Today, Punjab has two state-run medical colleges, both of which are very well regarded. Many leading doctors in the country have graduated from here. Then we have one medical college at Faridkot that is run by Baba Farid University, which is a state university. We also have a number of good private medical colleges in the state. We also have a good network of nursing training in Punjab. We are now working on skill training and we have set up an expertise committee that has identified certain specified courses that can be introduced in university curriculum for further improving the scope of education being imparted.

What is your view about having private sector participation in the healthcare sector?
We already have few successful PPP projects going on in Mohali and Bhatinda, where surplus land from our civil hospital has been made available for setting up of super speciality hospitals. We recently concluded PPP arrangement for the provision of diagnostic services for our civil hospitals. We are also working on some more PPP models like setting up various laboratories.

With rising cost of healthcare it has become important for people to have some kind of health insurance. But not everyone is able to afford healthcare insurance on his own? What kind of work are you doing in this area?
The Ministry of Labour and Employment has launched Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY) to provide health insurance coverage for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families. The objective of RSBY is to provide protection to BPL households from financial liabilities arising out of health shocks that involve hospitalisation. Beneficiaries under RSBY are entitled to hospitalisation coverage up to `30,000 for most of the diseases that require hospitalisation. The Ministry has noted that Punjab is one of the star performers under RSBY. The state has also launched its own health insurance scheme for other poor families who have not been categories under BPL. Additionally, the state government, through the Department of Cooperative, is running Bhai Ghanhya Sehat Sewa Scheme. The scheme aims to provide the cashless health care facilities and treatment to the members of the Cooperative societies and their family members across the state.

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