Guwahati, Sept. 26: Dispur has chalked out new initiatives to educate people about its free heart surgery scheme in the wake of the suicide of a financially weak couple along with their critically ill child on Monday.
The initiatives include engaging Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), teachers and village heads to sensitise poor and illiterate people and residents of remote corners of the state about the scheme that offers free surgery to children with congenital heart defects from economically weak families.
Nirmal Kumar Bhattacharyya, nodal officer of the scheme, told The Telegraph that the publicity or awareness drive, conducted before each screening camp to select children with congenital heart defects, would be intensified. He said newspaper and TV advertisements would now be more frequent.
In the last three years, National Rural Health Mission, Assam, the scheme’s funding agency, published advertisements in newspapers just 15 days ahead of the screening camps. Now, these will be published a month ahead of the camps and telecast more frequently on television so that parents of such children can have more time to decide and bring them to screening camps.
Bhattacharyya, who is also Gauhati Medical College and Hospital vice-principal, said he would propose engagement of ASHAs to increase the scheme’s popularity in remote areas and villages.
Sources, however, said the NRHM had already chalked out plans to engage ASHAs, teachers and village heads.
“ASHAs have been doing an excellent job to sensitise pregnant women about the benefits of institutional delivery, care of children and also popularising a few other government health schemes among the rural populace in Assam. They can do the same in case of the free heart surgery scheme and that is why we have decided to engage them this time. The same applies to teachers and village heads. Many parents in rural areas and villages may not go through or cannot read newspapers or do not have access to television to know about the scheme,” a NRHM source said.
Bhattacharyya said most of the doctors, especially those from the paediatric department of GMCH, were well aware of the scheme. He said doctors at the district hospitals had also been sensitised about the project to enable them to guide people. “I simply appeal to parents and relatives of children having congenital heart defects to come to GMCH or go to any district hospital to know about the scheme. Doctors are there to guide them,” he said.
The new initiatives were chalked out after Dispur faced criticism following the Monday incident, in which a couple from Nalbari district ended their lives by jumping into the Brahmaputra along with their 10-month-old daughter, who was diagnosed with a hole in her heart.
Family members of the deceased said they took the extreme step because they could not arrange money for their daughter’s heart surgery. They alleged that GMCH had turned down the couple’s request for free surgery, as they did not have BPL cards.
While the Opposition AGP has demanded a high-level inquiry into the incident, GMCH authorities have refuted the allegation, saying the parents could not understand the free heart surgery scheme properly and lost patience.
DON’T LOSE HEART
• Assam has a huge number of children
with congenital heart defects (CHD)
• This number is expected to rise in coming years
• CHD can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the
wrong place, or be blocked completely
• Without surgical and other medical intervention, CHD can result in death
• The state government has sent 1410 children with CHD to Bangalore and Calcutta for free treatment
• In case of complications, a second visit to hospitals outside the state may be necessary. The nodal officer will certify this
in writing for special approval