Doctor Governor

In his Republic Day address to the people, Nagaland Governor K. Sankaranarayanan pointed out that Dimapur can become a major health hub in the North East after Guwahati. Sankaranarayanan in his address went on to applaud the State’s doctors, nurses and paramedics describing them as amongst the best. There is no doubt, as observed by the Governor, that our government doctor’s and nurses can be the best if they instill the right work culture and remain committed to public service. The other observation made by the Governor was that a good number of private hospitals that have come up in Dimapur and Kohima. Seen in terms of adding new health services, which will benefit, especially urban dwellers in a place like Dimapur, this is positive. Having said what he did, the Governor must likewise use the time of Presidents Rule to do something noteworthy with regard to rural health care and services. As rightly stated in his Republic Day address, with the National Rural Health Mission, the flagship central government programme, there is vast scope for improving our district hospitals, Community Health Centres (CHCs) and Primary Health Centres (PHCs).

Quality health care facilities in far flung areas of the State continue to remain a mirage because of years of neglect and inefficiency on the part of the State machineries. In fact, rural health care in the State is in doldrums, which is evident from periodic cases of epidemic among vulnerable children in the rural areas. Sometime back, a village in Mon district had reported 10 deaths while an estimated 300 children had become seriously ill from various diseases especially measles, diarrhea, dysentery and other water-borne diseases. Not surprisingly it was later learnt that while the village in question had a sub-health centre but its staffs posted there were absent for no valid reason. Unfortunately, this is not the only exception. The sheer neglect—whether it is education or basic health care services—of rural Nagaland is all too familiar, with the concerned authorities including the political leadership having done very little about it for many years now. And because they go unreported even in the media, such cases of neglect do not get proper attention of the concerned authorities. Worst still, something as basic as health does not feature as an election issue nor does it draw the attention of political parties. At most health care or its related issues are confined to the four corners of the seminar room. 

While much needs to be done to improve health care delivery and services in the rural areas, what should be of equal concern is that though sufficient funds are being allocated to address the problem, there appears to be no visibility of infrastructure and medical personnel in these centers. The Governor has an opportunity to streamline rural health services and ensure the availability of doctors and medical personnel in their place of duty. The Chief Secretary should be directed to take a thorough review of health services across the State and more so in the block and primary level health centers and district hospitals. Basic issues like eradication of poverty and hunger, universal primary education, reduction of child mortality and improving health care may appear to be irrelevant when there is euphoria in the media about large scale development taking place including the emerging big hospitals in places like Kohima and Dimapur. But the problems are still immense if one unravels the prevailing condition in rural areas. It may after all be worthwhile for the Governor to do a reality check on the availability or otherwise of state run health services and personnel across the board.