With a fiscal burden of `4,100 crore and shortage of over 750 doctors,Punjab’s Health Department faces an uphill task. In the seventh month of the Congress-led government, Pankaj Dhiman interviews Punjab Health Minister Brahm Mohindra

Opposition has derided the six-month report card of your government. What is your take?

Six months is not enough for any comparison with the past 10 years of previous regimes. The Akalis have left the state with a huge fiscal burden. They took a loan of Rs 4,100 crore from HDFC Bank and Yes Bank, which was to be spent for the state’s rural and urban healthcare. The entire amount was wasted on Sangat Darshans (meeting people to address their problems on the spot). It was a criminal wastage of public funds. Somebody should have been held responsible for this. The amount was to be obtained from the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) which has not been released so far. Now, the banks are crying for the refund of the amount and we are finding ways to deal with the situation amid state’s poor fiscal health.

What steps have been taken for recruitment of doctors and paramedical staff?

Yes, there is an acute shortage of doctors and paramedical staff in the state. We have an urgent requirement of at least 784 doctors in both the rural and urban areas. We are contemplating various proposals which are likely to be tabled in the upcoming Cabinet meeting. The total strength of rural doctors will be merged into the strength of doctors who are working in urban areas. Presently, the doctors working in the rural areas are enrolled with panchayats.We are considering the merger of rural health doctors with the state Health Department. This will help us to increase the strength of doctors in the state. Against 1,770 sanctioned posts of specialist doctors, only 1,368 posts are filled. There are as many as 1,185 subsidiary health centres in rural areas of the state. We have mooted a proposal regarding the merger of doctors working in rural areas with those who are working in urban areas. To quicken the process of recruitment for miscellaneous services we are in the process of keeping the recruitment process out of the purview of the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC). The recruitment of specialist doctors will be done through walk-in interviews.

Dengue cases have touched 3,000 this year.What is the action plan?

Definitely this is a serious health issue, but it is not the singular duty of Health Department to tackle the situation. We have held an inter-department meeting of concerned 11 departments to review their preparedness to prevent and combat dengue in the state. All hospitals have designated dengue wards where patients are kept under mosquito nets and supportive treatment is being provided free of cost. The primary duty for the preparedness begins with the local government department and then education department. If leakage of pipelines can be controlled in time and children can be educated timely, the situation will improve.The Health Department is working with full dedication and positive results will be seen in the next few days. Hospitals are not following the instructions properly when it comes to dealing with biomedical waste.

What are your plans?

We have initiated a zero tolerance policy with regard to bio-medical waste in the state as it has a potential for spreading deadly diseases. Recently, strict action has been initiated against erring hospitals violating the guidelines and spreading pollution. We have asked medical professionals to follow the stipulated procedure for the disposal of bio-medical waste. Bio-medical wastage needs to be dealt aggressively. Specified coloured bins for segregation of garbage should be provided. We are in the process of making this proposal functional. Simultaneously, awareness needs to be created aggressively to achieve better results.

How are drug de-addiction centres functioning in the state?

We are organising the second phase of special training programme for medical officers deputed at de-addiction and rehabilitation centres. After undergoing training, the medical officers would be capable of handling indoor admissions at a de-addiction centre under the supervision of a psychiatrist. After the completion of the training programme, more than 50 medical officers would provide all healthcare and treatment services to the patients at de-addiction and rehabilitation centres.