Rural health care in critical condition; More than 90% of vacant medical posts in health centers

Medical tourism and Gujarat are often seen as two sides of the same coin. While this may be true for urban areas, in rural belts the reality is far from the same. Not to mention specialist treatment, even the bases are in dire straits. The situation is particularly grim with regard to obstetrics, gynecologists and paediatricians.

Physicians in urban areas fear being assigned to the hinterland. Not only does this mean a life full of challenges, but the buzz is that doctors end up suffering from depression because the infra is inadequate to treat the patient.

According to current statistics, 2,457 auxiliary nurse-midwife positions are vacant in the 1,477 CSPs (primary health centres). This stands in stark contrast to the numbers, even in a tribal state like Chhattisgarh, where the number stands at 456.

“Nearly 379 primary health centers operate without doctors. In 2005, this number was 222. In short, the health system has deteriorated in 15 years. Of the prescribed provision for 1,392 specialists in state-run community health centers, nearly 1,379 remain vacant. That is to say, in the entire state-run health infrastructure system in Gujarat, there are only 13 specialists! In addition, 222 of the 348 radiologist positions, 308 parachemist positions and 347 laboratory technician positions are awaiting appointment by the government. In the field of nursing staff too, 944 out of 3,913 positions are vacant,” shared a development worker from the block on condition of anonymity.

In 15 years, only one new CSC has opened, while 14 CSPs have closed. In March 2019, there were 2,186 doctors in CSPs and a year later the number fell to 1,490. Similarly, the number of specialist doctors in CSCs was 118, which fell to 23 in March 2020 .

The table below makes the situation clear:

The grim numbers are responsible for the higher incidence of infant deaths in the state. With 127 ROR (per 100,000 deliveries) and 33 RME (per 1,000 deliveries), Gujarat ranks 5th among 36 states and UTs in infant mortality rate.

Faced with the facts and figures, the state’s health minister, Rishikesh Patel, replied: “We are in the process of filling vacancies. There was a two-year delay due to corona and the already overwhelmed medical system. Even if the block does not have a gynecologist for the delivery, the future mothers are helped with 108 Ambulances or the Janani ambulance which brings the midwife to the villager.

However, with the Assembly elections approaching, the opposition is sparing no effort in its efforts to expose the moribund state of rural health care. According to former Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia: “There is so much unemployment in the state, but the government has kept vacancies. All cases are referred to private hospitals in urban centres. Gujarat is also among the five states in which malnutrition and anemia afflict women.

On the other hand, Aam Aadmi Party State Secretary General Manoj Sorthia delivered on the promise of “mohalla clinics”, adding that the BJP government has flourished at the expense of “janta health”.

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