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Doctor shortages, lack of access: Jharkhand’s govt’s health sector review flags major gaps

The gaps are critical given that they come amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the state.

Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. (File)

Jharkhand has only six doctors per lakh population and 85 per cent of its specialist doctor posts are lying vacant, the state government has found in a review which lays bare major gaps in healthcare access and delivery.

The health review is part of a series of departmental exercises ordered by Chief Minister Hemant Soren. The gaps are critical given that they come amid the Covid-19 pandemic which has claimed nearly 1,000 lives in the state. Jharkhand has nearly 2,000 active cases and has reported more than one lakh positive cases in all.

The review documents, which The Indian Express has seen, says a total of 8,462 health sub-centres, primary health centres and community health centres are required in the state, but only 4,476 of these are functional. “There is a gap of 3,130 health sub-centres; 769 primary health centres; 87 community health centres in the state as per Indian Public Health Standards taking into account the last census,” state the documents.

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As per the review, a quarter of the state’s population lacks access to institutional deliveries. Hazaribagh, Simdega, East Singhbhum and Ramgarh have the lowest percentage of institutional deliveries—under 60 per cent.

“During the field surveys people said that they relied on government hospitals more, but there were many deliveries conducted in private nursing homes where we have not been able to get the data,” said a government official who was part of the review process.

It also emerged in the review meeting that as per the Indian Public Health Standards, there is a gap of 5,258 doctors. Taking into account the projected 2019 population of 3.78 crore in Jharkhand, there are 2,306 doctors in government institutions. During the discussion it was mentioned: “There are 27 beds, six doctors, 1 lab technician, and around three nurses per lakh of population in Jharkhand.”

The worst figures were for specialist doctors. “There are only five anaesthetists out of 89, 21 out of 271 paediatrician and eight out of 246 physicans as required in the state. Out of 994 positions, 860 remain vacant,” the review says.

Government sources said they have been trying to incentivise doctors to take specialised positions in state hospitals, but little has happened.

Hemant Soren said during the review: “We need to give 24 hours round the clock service in all hospitals. Please send in proposals for required human resources in all such units to fill the gaps… There is no need to construct new health units as there are many which are lying unutilized.”

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