Soon after assuming the charge of Health Minister of Uttarakhand Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal ?Nishank? has raided the government hospitals and dispensaries in remote and border areas and found that doctors were not on duty for the last three years. Besides alerting the health department, he decided to take various initiatives to improve the health condition in the state. Organiser representative Ravindra Saini spoke to Dr Nishank in Dehradun on his priorities. Excerpts:
How do you see the picture of health in Uttarakhand?
The picture is not good. We have started efforts to bring it on the track. I am greatly surprised to see during raids in several government hospitals that doctors were absent for one year without informing the department at important places like Mussoorie. Irregularities have also been found in the management of hospitals. Sahaspur is at a stone'sthrow distance from Dehradun. Doctors were found absent there for more than three years. Doctors were also found absent in Chakrata for the last three years. This shows that the picture is very disappointing.
How would you improve it?
I shall leave no stone unturned in this regard. I have ordered termination of those doctors who remained absent from their duties for more than three years without any information. I have been inspecting the hospitals, medicine stores and dispensaries. I have directed the DG Health to ensure that every prime health centre, dispensary or hospital maintains a proper record of medicines available and also which medicines had been given to the patients along with the quantity. I would not tolerate any irregularity in distributing medicines to the patients.
What are your priorities as the new Health and Science & Technology Minister?
My priority is to take care of everyone'shealth. I shall ensure that every person in the state be in pink health. My priority will be to make Uttarakhand the best state in the field of health and science & technology. A new science city costing Rs 100 crore would be built in the state. The government desires to develop Uttarakhand as a science state. The science city, which would be developed on 50 acres land, would comprise a planetarium, a science park and other basic facilities. I express my confidence that the science city would become a major tourist destination. Traditional medicines derived from herbs used in the country for centuries are being patented by China. An Intellectual Property Rights Mission would be set up in Uttarakhand. The purpose would be to protect the traditional wisdom and new discoveries made in the state. Traditional crops like buckwheat, finger millet would also be patented. About 18 young scientists would soon be honoured for their contribution to science. Uttarakhand has a large number of eminent scientists in various fields. Their services would be utilised to realise this purpose and dream. Several ropeways would be constructed by the government, which would use gravitational force as power to run. Two such ropeways are being constructed between Dhari and Kafnol and between Hapla and Pokhri.
People in remote areas still do not have access to the basic health facilities. How will you ensure to provide them with these facilities?
Not only in border and remote areas but also in urban areas, the health facilities are not according to our expectations but we will take the basic health facilities to remote and border areas. Especially women have to face various kinds of problems in the state, we will ensure to provide them with more health facilities. There will be a van with doctors and medicines at all the district headquarters, which will serve this purpose. People will be given information of this van in advance. This will cover a distance of 50 to 100 km daily.
How will you check corruption in hospitals? It is generally said that good quality medicines are not given to the patients but they are sold in the market.
There should be will-power to check corruption. All know that ministers like me cannot tolerate any kind of corruption. My task will be to make health department the best centre of services to the people and I hope that officers will co-operate with me fully. They know my intention, even the health department will watch its head to be high with respect but I will never pardon the people who will be found involved in corruption.
Is there any move to reduce the prices of life-saving drugs and surgical equipments?
We will try to provide the life-saving drugs and surgical equipment at the block level but we cannot reduce the prices because it depends on the factories and cost of production, etc. I have directed the DG Health to improve the supply of drugs at block level hospitals.
Supreme Court has directed the private hospitals and nursing homes, which received land from government, to provide free treatment to at least 25 per cent poor patients. Will you follow it in Uttarakhand?
Of course, such hospitals and nursing homes will be directed to follow the direction of the Supreme Court. It is also their moral duty, which should be discharged honestly to run their hospitals and nursing homes.
Engineering and medical colleges are charging higher fees from students. Will you reduce the present fee structure?
The government has decided to constitute a committee to study the fee structure. Unnecessary fees should not be charged. I agree that poor students should also be given the opportunities to become doctors and engineers. However, the government has already constituted a committee to look into these institutes.
The number of cancer patients is growing in Uttarakhand, but there is no facility to cure the fatal disease in the state. What will you do in this regard?
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences is being established in Rishikesh. Oncology department will also be set up there, which will help cancer patients. This institute will help in fighting against various diseases.