September 19, 2018

Swasthya Sewa Raths are a boon for the needy and poor

Advocating for equitable access to health care for the people of District Kabirdham in Chattisgarh, on 24 December, 2017, Member of Parliament Abhishek Singh launched the Sansad Swasthya Sewa Rath (also known as Mobile Medical Units or MMUs).

Financially supported by the Sansad Nidhi Fund and the Baiga Vikas Pradhikaran, for this scheme, 37 villages from Pandariya Block and 28 villages from Bodla Block were selected on the basis of inhabitation by marginalized communities (such as those people categorized by the Government of India as ‘Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups’ or PVTGs), remoteness of the area from immediately available healthcare services, maternal-infant mortality, epidemic and other morbidity ratios.

Each MMU is a team consisting of a Medical Officer (MBBS), a Staff Nurse, a Lab Technician, a Pharmacist-cum-Administrative Assistant and a Driver-cum-Support Staff. The need for the deployment of these MMU services in tribal areas was deeply felt due to various factors such as the non-provision of basic Reproductive and Child Health (RCH) services due to the doctors, nurses and even the Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs) finding it difficult to live in these areas that lacked any sort of infrastructure to establish fixed services. Another factor was to take into account places where the existing Primary Healthcare Centres’ (PHCs) reach is limited on account of several micro-habitations that are either too small for the establishment of regular fixed services or too remote to expect those in need of health care services to approach their nearest PHC. Also, the range of services available in PHCs are restricted to a limited set of RCH services provided by the ANM, Nurse or the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy (AYUSH) and there is no accessible health centre with a Medical Officer. In light of this, the scheme envisions the provision of basic health care including the regular RCH services by the PHCs while the MMUs would provide other more advanced services.

These advanced services include the provision of preventive and outpatient curative care for common communicable and non-communicable diseases, screening facilities and referral linkages. Acute medical care would be provided during MMU site visits along with diagnostics support such as blood glucose and pregnancy testing, urine microscopy, height-weight and vision testing, provision of monthly supply of diabetes and hypertension medications to those in need etc. The operational aspects of the scheme will be overseen by the District Chief Medical Officer and the Medical Officer of the nearest functional PHC would provide support to the MMU team as required. Where there are functional sub centers, ANMs would be available on the day of the MMU visit to provide their support. Referrals would be made to Community Health Centres (CHCs) or the District Hospital. The use of 108 services will be made in case tertiary care is needed. Thus, this scheme aims to ensure that no one is excluded from receiving quality health care support because of location-based remoteness.

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