Karnataka is implementing ICT initiatives, including e-Hospital software and new business models in the Department of Health and Family Welfare, for offering better health services to the people, says U T Khader, Minister for Health and Family Welfare, Government of Karnataka and District In-charge Minister for Mangaluru District
Come May 2016 and you will complete three years in office as Minister. How do you describe your term? Elucidate major initiatives and accomplishments.
I am happy about it. I express gratitude to my leaders for choosing me as the Health Minister. Health & Family Welfare is an important portfolio. During my tenure, several people-friendly initiatives have been undertaken. For some, we have received appreciation.
When I assumed charge as the Minister in 2013, I was new to the subject. The first few months had been a learning curve. Later period was marked for making health services effective and accountable. All our initiatives and programmes have been designed around the concept of Health for All. Some are preventive and others curative in nature.
Major initiatives include ICT initiatives (e-Hospital); establishment of ICUs with ventilators, free supply of essential medicines on demand; linking hospitals with medical colleges through telemedicine; launch of Arogya Sahayavani (104 – Phone Doctor) and establishment of Drug Distribution Centres in health centres.
Launching Bike Ambulance, paying highest salaries to doctors (`60,000 PM for MBBS and `80,000 PM forMD) and 100 per cent free medical treatment for BPL cardholders, 70 per cent free medical treatment for APL cardholders and free dental camps for senior citizens are some of the accomplishments for which we have received positive feedback.
Another is receiving a national award from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment for providing Group D jobs to 100 leprosy-cured patients in Karnataka. We have also signed an MoU with the Hindustan Lifecare Ltd, a Government of India enterprise, for setting up Janata Diagnostic Centres and Jana Sanjeevini Stores under the Public Private Partnership mode.
Describe the mandate of the Department of Health and Family Welfare. What were the challenges you faced while implementing health services?
Health is a State subject under the Constitution of India. Our focus is to reach the goal of Health for All on the lines of the policy directives issued from the Government of India keeping the National Health Policy as a major objective. Today, Karnataka’s network of health centres (8,871 sub-centres, 2,353 PHCs, 206 CHCs, 146 taluk hospitals and 30 district hospitals) caters to peoples needs throughout the State. Each centre has a mandate in attending peoples requirement. Currently, we have 785 ambulances and 17 Bike Ambulances.
The department ensures the implementation of various national and state health programmes and also provides comprehensive healthcare services to the people of the State through various types of health and medical institutions.
What is your vision for Health and Family Welfare? How does ICT and e-Health software fit into your objectives?
The primary objective of the department of Health and Family Welfare is to provide health service to the people of State. To facilitate the same, several resources have been created and developed under various Central and state programmes. It is a continuous activity and upgradation process. My vision is to facilitate better healthcare facilities by creating resources and infrastructure facilities. I believe that technology will come in handy for facilitating better healthcare services to people.
During 2015-16, we undertook ICT initiatives with an objective to strengthen the healthcare network in the State. e-Hospital software is one such initiative being implemented in all the hospitals with a view to document and utilise the health information of every patient visiting the government hospitals. The National Informatics Centre and KIONICS (a Govt of Karnataka enterprise) are supporting the e-Hospital initiative for development and deployment.
Similarly, digital software is being deployed in high-frequency X-ray machines of the taluk and district hospitals. By installing this software, action will be taken to get the opinion and advice of the experts by sending the X-ray reports to the higher level hospitals through tele-radiology and several others.
Which are the new initiatives in pipeline during 2016? Give details of their status.
There are several. Some of those are listed below:
Janata Diagnostic Centres: Hightech medical equipment in all district hospitals will support patients for various diagnostic tests. On January 4, 2016, Governor Vajubhai Vala launched the first phase in Bangalore. Under Phase-1, as many as 14 centres will be set up in district hospitals, including at Bengaluru, Mysore and Mangaluru. They will function 24x7and are equipped with CT scanners, MRI scanners, high-tech labs for blood tests and other modern medical equipment. The cost will be about 50 to 60 per cent lesser than what is being charged in diagnostic centres.
During 2015-16, we undertook ICT initiatives with an objective to strengthen the healthcare network in the State
Jana Sanjeevini Stores: To facilitate medicines at reasonable prices, a chain of Jana Sanjeevinigeneric drug stores have been set up all over the State. Though they are already running, the official launch is due. In Phase-1, 30 stores will be opened with an objective of having at least one such store in each district. Only drugs manufactured by well known companies will be sold here to ensure quality. While 361 generic drugs can be procured under Jan Aushadhi, as many as 748 drugs are available under Jana Sanjeevini. We did not find the Centre model feasible, as drugs for critical illnesses, including cancer, aren’t available at a lower cost.
E-Kirana: A teleradiology facility named E-Kirana is set to open at the Bangalore Medical College and research Institute (BMCRI). It will connect government hospitals across Karnataka, enabling immediate reading of X-rays, CT scans and ultrasound images from rural areas by experts at the BMCRI. Optical fibres for the project have already been laid and connectivity to hospitals will be achieved in phases starting from the districts and then taluks levels.
E-commerce is an emerging market in India. Why are you against online sale of drugs?
In the absence of official guidelines for online sale of drugs, I feel it is not appropriate to take up this matter. We want the Government of India to come out with guidelines in this matter for moving further. My apprehension is drug abuse by the youth if drugs could be purchased via e-commerce. Through e-pharmacy, there was every chance for the youth to purchase drugs that were sedative in nature and leading to its substance dependence. We should not mix enterprise with health.