All Northeast states have a shortfall of male health workers at sub-centres and medical specialists at CHC Credit: Representational image

Guwahati: Shortage of doctors and health professionals in rural India has been a long standing issue. While answering to questions on the same, the Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey stated some alarming numbers related to Northeast.

The eight states comprise of some of the most difficult terrains and isolated border areas. For people here, accessibility to health care is a big task.

Health workers (male) at sub-centres in rural areas

The availability of male health workers at sub-centres in rural areas shows that Nagaland, which requires 433 workers, has none. As per data from March 31, 2019, all the sub-centres are empty and there is a requirement to requisition 100% workers.

In fact, all Northeast states have a shortfall. These centres are crucial as they are the first contact point between the basic health care system and the community.

Both Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are functioning with less than 50% of required workers, needing 200 and 277 healthpersons respectively. Meanwhile, Sikkim has a shortfall of 46.02%, Tripura 35.18% and Assam has one-third shortfall of the required workers.

Among all the Northeast states, Mizoram is in the best position as of the required 370 male health workers, it has 362 people in position.

Total specialists at CHCs in Rural Areas

Community Health Centres (CHC) are also a major cause of worry.

In an ideal situation, a CHC is supposed to have four medical specialists, that is, surgeon, physician, gynaecologist, and paediatrician supported by 21 paramedical and other staff. However, in Mizoram and Sikkim, there is a 100% shortfall as of March 31, 2019.

Mizoram requires 36, while Sikkim requires 8 specialists, but there are none.

Tripura, Manipur, Meghalaya, and Nagaland are not far behind with a shortfall of 97.22%, 96.74%, 96.74%, and 90.47% respectively.

Assam is functioning with just 20% of the required capacity and Arunachal Pradesh with around 42% of medical specialists.

Responding to the question by MP Dr Arvind Kumar Sharma and MP Dr Alok Kumar Suman on steps being taken by the government to ensure better availability of specialist doctors, the Union MoS said, “Government of India has taken various steps to optimize the number of specialists in the country – which inter-alia includes: increasing the number of seats in PG level at various medical educational institutes/medical colleges across the country; States to adopt flexible norms for engaging specialists for public health facilities by various mechanisms like ‘contracting in’ and ‘contracting out’ of specialist services under National Health Mission.”

He added, “State/UTs have also been allowed to offer negotiable salaries to attract Specialists including flexibility in strategies such as ‘You quote, we pay’.”

Further, six of the eight states have a shortfall in number of radiographers at CHCs in rural areas.

In Nagaland and Arunchal Pradesh, there is a deficit of 85.71% and 73.01% radiographers respectively, while Assam has 90 people against the required 177, that is, running short of almost 50% of the required personnel.

Meanwhile, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura have a shortfall of 35.17%, 44.44% and 38.88% respectively.

Manipur and Sikkim have a surplus of radiographers at CHCs.

While all the northeastern states are faring well with a surplus of auxiliary nurse midwife (ANM) at sub-centres, Tripura has a shortfall of almost 40%. Against the requirement of 972 ANMs, the state has a deficit of 388 workers.

Likewise, Sikkim is short of 13% female health workers at sub-centres, with a need to requisition 24 more workers.

Corrigendum: An earlier version of this article said the data had been presented in Rajya Sabha. The data was presented in Lok Sabha. The same has been corrected.

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