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Double dose for ailing healthcare

- Dial-up medical info kiosk, telemedicine system this fiscal

Ranchi, Nov. 24: A splitting headache or a nagging pain in the stomach? Just dial for expert help.

Jharkhand — a state reeling under an acute crunch of medical practitioners because of its government’s inability to draw up hiring rules and regulations — is making an umpteenth endeavour to salvage its image with a one-stop solution for every remedial need.

An all-encompassing medical information centre and the long-pending telemedicine project will soon see the light of day to fill in the healthcare gap. While the information kiosk will enable people across the state to seek quick remedies either in person or over phone, the telemedicine system will offer expert and detailed pharmaceutical advice to hospitals and patients across all the 24 districts.

According to highly placed sources in the state health department, both projects have already kicked off in Ranchi.

Deputy secretary (health) Ram Kumar Sinha said the proposed health information centre was already on the drawing board and a corpus of Rs 8 crore had been fixed for setting up, running and maintaining the facility.

“Funds have been sanctioned and we will launch the centre this fiscal itself,” Sinha, who is monitoring both projects, exuded confidence. “The blueprint is being drafted and we will complete other formalities in the meantime,” he added.

On what the information centre would be like, the senior health official said 25-30 paramedics — who would act like a medical knowledge bank for patients in need — would monitor the kiosk.

“One can call to check the quality of medicines in the market or seek remedies for ailments. Qualified medical practitioners can even offer suggestions to the centre, which will also have a database of health indices of every district,” he added.

The telemedicine system, on the other hand, was proposed two years ago, but bureaucratic hassles kept it grounded. Sinha, however, claimed that the ambitious Rs 1.24-crore plan had gathered momentum. “We have had a couple of presentations recently. We will evaluate all of them to give final shape to the project,” he said.

“Initially, all the three state medical colleges (RIMS in Ranchi, MGM in Jamshedpur and PMCH in Dhanbad) will be able to provide online medical consultancy to district hospitals and treatment to patients across Jharkhand,” Sinha added.

Later, the telemedicine system will connect through satellite doctors of some of the best hospitals across the country with patients in the state.

The Jharkhand Space Application Centre of the state IT department is supervising this project. Sarvesh Singhal, director of JSAC, said around 15 days ago, they had sent a concept note on ways to implement the project and were waiting for the health department’s final go-ahead. “It all depends when the funds are approved, after which we will float the tender,” Singhal added.

The government’s seemingly enthusiastic attempt notwithstanding, the question remains whether a state, which lacks proper infrastructure at its medical colleges, has no full-time entomologist to quell the vector menace and is yet to flag off a dial-up ambulance service, will be able to deliver the twin healthcare promises.