Close to completing 100 days in power, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has initiated the process for a major revamp of the healthcare system in the state. Banking on technology, the state health ministry has drawn up a blue print for overcoming the challenge of shortage of doctors and infrastructure. According to government officials, there is a shortage of 7,000 MBBS doctors, 18,000 paramedical staffs even as a majority of hospitals needs upgradation. The government plans to address this challenge by using technology for telemedicine, conducting walk-in-interviews, appointing BUMS doctors at primary healthcare (PHC) level and upgrading the existing hospitals with the help of World Bank.
“Availability of the doctors, medicine, technicians and equipments are key for the improvement of healthcare service delivery. However, we have a shortage of 7,000 MBBS doctors and 18,000 paramedic staff. To overcome this, we are taking a two-pronged approach—first, we are using existing doctors and infrastructure to the optimal and second, we are going to launch an universal telemedicine service in the state,” said Uttar Pradesh health minister Sidharth Nath Singh. According to officials, very soon, government will come out with a tender to roll out telemedicine services. “Once that happens, we will be able to narrow the gap because through telemedicine, if you need 100 doctors, you may survive with 10 doctors,” said Singh. UP already has a dedicated telemedicine facility at the Sanjay Gandhi Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (SGPGIMS), Lucknow but Singh is of the view that it is very small and the state would need an universal telemedicine setup that can reach out to primary healthcare centres (PHC) across the state. “When you talk about telemedicine, it has to be universal. It must touch the primary healthcare centres, not just a medical college,” he said.
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On the question of MBBS doctors reluctant to serve in rural areas, he said, “I am okay with it. If an MBBS doctor goes to PHC, it’s great. If they cannot go, we have to find a way to address this challenge. I am coming up with a policy to allow Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) doctors to serve at PHC level. It is better to have something than nothing.” While an online appointment system for OPDs and clinics as adopted by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) and few other government-owned hospitals is being considered by the state government to smoothen patient interaction with the doctors and hospitals, Singh said the state would come up with many technology driven things to deliver hassle-free healthcare services but at this stage, the focus is to address the shortage of doctors and medical staff. “We have to go step by step, we cannot do everything together. First step is that we must have doctors. If the doctors are there, then the appointment comes. If the doctors are not there what will I do with the online appointment system,” said Singh.