Jan Swasthya Abhiyan demands rollback of decision; probe and action against officials
Serious objections have been raised against the decision of Madhya Pradesh government to ‘hand over’ the management of a community health centre (CHC) in Sanwer of Indore to a private medical college. Those objecting the move claim that this implies privatisation of health services at a time the battle against COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing.
The MP unit of the Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) – the Indian regional circle of the global People’s Health Movement (PHM)— demanded immediate rollback of the decision, a probe into the matter and action against officials responsible.
In a press statement, the JSA said at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the importance of the public health system, it was expected that the MP government would strengthen the system, instead it was again moving towards privatisation.
The organisation said following a letter from the MP directorate of health dated February 5 a memorandum of understanding was signed between Indore chief medical and health officer (CMHO) on behalf of the state health department and the dean of the private Shri Aurobindo Institute of Medical Sciences (SAIMS), Indore on February 8, and the CHC was ‘handed over’ to the latter.
Amulya Nidhi of JSA said this MoU was in contravention of the rules as the local Rogi Kalyan Samiti (patient welfare committee) was not involved in the process despite the rules regarding the Samiti being invoked by the health department in its letter regarding the said MoU.
Under the MoU, the Sanwer CHC will become affiliated to SAIMS and the medical institute will be responsible for upgrading the centre and making available all medical facilities and equipment, additional human resources, setting up a 12-bed intensive critical care unit, pediatric intensive care unit, special newborn care unit equipped ventilators and other life-saving equipment, ambulances and other facilities, without putting additional financial burden on the government through the PPP mode. The medical college will use the CHC as an affiliated rural health centre for the subject of community medicine and a training centre for medical interns.
“However, the duration of the MoU and the details of the step to be taken for upgrading and extension of the centre are not clear from the letter of the health directorate. The SAIMS is a private institute and charges service fees from the patients. This step of the government will weaken the public health sector and put financial burden on local patients,” the press statement by JSA said.
The organisation also mentioned an attempt by the state government in 2012 to hand over the MGM medical college in Indore to the same SAIMS in the name of knowledge partnership, but this proposal was rolled back after widespread protests. In another unsuccessful attempt, the CHC in Jobat and district hospital in Alirajpur were handed over to a private foundation for three years, but no upgrading or improvement in the health centres were done in the duration. The JSA has filed a petition in the MP High Court in this matter and it is still pending, the statement said.
The commissioner of health services, Dr Sanjay Goyal, when contacted by THE WEEK, said no such MoU had been signed. He sought to see the letter of the department in question, but when it was provided to him, he did not respond further.
Indore CMHO Dr Purnima Gadaria confirmed to THE WEEK that a MoU for coordination for upgrading of services of the Sanwer CHC, as per a letter of the health directorate, had been signed. She, however, denied that the centre had been ‘handed over’ to the SAIMS. “It is not a decision at the district level but at the directorate level. An approval was taken from the district collector too,” she said.
Additional chief secretary, health, Mohammad Suleman could not be contacted for comments.