December 2015

NE Sees Winds of Change in Healthcare

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jyotiThe healthcare sector in NE region will improve in the next few years. The Centres Act East policy is gaining momentum, informs Jyoti Rama Das, Managing Partner, Integra Ventures to Prathiba Raju of Elets News Network (ENN)

What are the key steps to be taken to boost the healthcare delivery in North Eastern region?

One of the major issues in India is the mismatch in demand and availability of healthcare services in the country while 70 per cent of health facilities are located in urban areas only 30 per cent of the population lives in these areas. This problem is graver in Northeast (NE) India (urban to rural population ratio is 81 per cent : 19 per cent as per Census 2011) where healthcare facilities are grossly concentrated in few cities and towns while the larger population in rural areas remains mostly under-served. Difficult terrains and lack of convenient and quick transportations system compound peoples difficulty to avail quality healthcare services in NE India.

Do you think enough has been done to boost the health fraternity of the NE region?

In NE region of India, manpower scarcity across all categories remains a major constraint in rendering quality healthcare services. Other than Assam, Manipur and Meghalaya (Post graduate institute), the rest of the six states do not have a single medical college to its credibility. The availability of trained workforce is a prerequisite to the growth of the sector. Off late the state governments have prioritised in making more medical manpower available with proposal to setup medical and paramedical institutes across different district headquarters of the NE region. However, availability of teaching staff remains a major challenge for the state governments to deliver quality education. For the manpower issue to get resolved, another five to ten years will be required to fill the gap to a substantial extent i.e. till the states start producing trained manpower from the newly proposed or recently commissioned institutes. The healthcare sector in the region should also focus to improve the utilisation of these facilities. The underlying factor for low utilisation of these healthcare facilities is lack of accountability on part of the employees.

Where do NE states stand when it comes to adoption of the technology in healthcare?

As far as NE India is concerned, technology usage in the healthcare sector is grossly concentrated towards selected urban locations. With most of the healthcare facilities in these locations like Guwahati, Shillong, Dibrugarh and Imphal are equipped with advanced diagnostic and therapeutic technologies these areas attract bulk of the patient load in the region. However, availability of advanced technology is in basic state in majority of the NE region. Lack of trained manpower, low paying capacity and lack of after sales service remain some of the major reasons which can be attributed towards unavailability of advanced technology in this region. Most of the healthcare facilities both in the private and government sectors are equipped with hospital management software solution however they are used for basic transaction processes like registration and billing while most of the modules for advanced management of the facilities are not utilised due to lack of trained manpower. One of the major advancement in the public health sector is the real time transmission of data to capture major health indicators which in turn help the authorities to take informed decisions for improvement of the healthcare sector.

Do you think there is enough corporate participation in the state when it comes to healthcare?

The private sector is yet to etch its footprints in the region. Other than the urban areas of Guwahati, Dibrugarh and Shillong, the remaining state capitals, district headquarters, major towns and cities of the region are deprived of adequate healthcare infrastructure. Patients therefore, have no other choice but to avail the facilities provided by public hospitals. The paying class of patients usually opts to travel to other cities such as Vellore, Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Patna, etc for tertiary level of care.

What are the potential of North East in healthcare domain?

Considering the potential of NE India, certain big corporate groups like Narayana Healthcare and Apollo have already set their mark in this region. Many other groups are also earnestly looking forward to establish themselves in the NE region after conducting thorough due diligence to run Healthcare businesses.

Do you think shortage manpower or lack of skilled workforce is hindrance to the sector?

Manpower is the most important resource in delivering quality healthcare services. Lack of trained manpower remains undoubtedly the major issue plaguing the Healthcare sector in NE region. The NE region still has shortage of specialists to cater to the needs of the patients. Qualified paramedical staff is also in demand in the region. Although the production of health workers has expanded greatly in recent years in NE region, the problems of imbalances in their distribution persist. Efforts towards facilitating availability of medical manpower in an uniform manner across the region remains a priority for all the state governments. Equitable distribution of manpower can be ensured once there is adequate supply of manpower which can be expected in the forthcoming years with availability of students from the Institutions.

In five years from now how do you see the growth in the healthcare domain?

The healthcare sector in NE region will definitely improve in the next few years. With the Centres Act East policy getting momentum we can expect higher allocation of funds and more importantly better utilisation of the same to improve the healthcare sector in the region. Also, we can expect the Private sector to grow in an impressive manner considering the growth potential of the region. Availability of adequate trained manpower in the forthcoming years will change the landscape of the healthcare sector thereby acting as the biggest growth driver in the region. Improved socio-economic condition of the population in general will also make the existence of advance healthcare facilities feasible in this region.

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