Health News update is a weekly news collation of health news which is shared on the Repro health list serve and archived on this website.

Health News

May 2010

Uttarakhand to expand smart health card scheme

Dehradun | May 17, 2010

The Uttarkhand government has decided to expand the health smart card scheme to six more districts of the state. Six districts where this scheme is being extended include Pithoragarh, Champawat, Almora, Bageshwar, Chamoli and Uttarkashi. With this expansion, eight districts out of a total 13 would be covered under the scheme. The remaining districts would be covered in the next phase of the expansion. The health smart cards are provided under the Rashtriya Beema Suraksha Yojna run by the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). This card entitles the below Poverty Line (BPL) card holders get free medical facilities upto Rs 30,000 for the whole family whose size is taken at five members.

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India to set up Pharmacopoeia Commission

New Delhi | May 13, 2010

Indian traditional medicine received a major boost with the cabinet sanctioning Rs 14.08 crore for establishing a pharmacopoeia commission to set and maintain standards in the sector. "The Union Cabinet today approved the establishment of a pharmacopoeia commission for ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homeopathy (AYUSH)," said Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni after a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. It is estimated that the global market for traditional and herbal medicines is worth US $62 billion, of which China's share is US $19 billion. India still has a long way to go to increase its share and the establishment of the pharmacopoeia commission for AYUSH is a very important step in this direction, Soni explained.

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Infectious diseases; the biggest child killer

Washington | May 12, 2010

Preventable infectious diseases accounted for two-thirds of the nine million child deaths in 2008, says a new study. Experts from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Unicef's Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group (CHERG) assessed data from 193 countries to produce estimates by country, region and the world. "With less than five years to reach the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4 — to reduce child deaths by two-thirds from 1990 levels — it is vital for governments, public health organisations, and donors to have accurate country-level estimates so they can target their efforts effectively," study leader Robert Black, who heads the Department of International Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said.

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Janani Express at service of more women in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal |May 13, 2010

Here's good news for pregnant women in Madhya Pradesh's rural areas. A free service to take them to a hospital for delivery is set to be extended to all 50 districts of the state that has a high maternal mortality ratio. The 24 x 7 call centres under the Janani Express - the ambulance service for pregnant women - are currently available only in 10 districts. "We are extending the services to all 50 districts this year considering its usefulness," said Health Secretary S.R. Mohanty. The move comes after a rise in the number of women availing themselves of the facility and an increase in the number of institutional deliveries in the state, which has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios (MMR) in the country at 335 per 100,000 live births.

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MCI dissolved, 7-member panel to take on

New Delhi | May 14, 2010

The Health Ministry has decided to set up a seven-member panel of doctors to replace the Medical Council of India (MCI) whose chief was arrested on corruption charges and subsequently resigned. The name of former All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) director P Venugopal is believed to figure in the list of members appointed to the panel. The cabinet had on Thursday approved an ordinance giving the Health Ministry higher control over the MCI, a body which regulates medical colleges in the country. Desai was arrested on April 22 by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs two crore in return for giving recognition to a medical college in Punjab though it did not meet MCI standards.

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Law soon to regulate clinics, nursing homes

New Delhi | May 14, 2010

The Bill for regulating clinical establishments to ensure safer health practices will be passed by Parliament in the coming Monsoon Session, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has said. The Bill will ensure safer health practices by regulating clinics and nursing homes across the country, he added. Stating that patients' safety is the casualty in over-burdened public health institutions, the minister said the passing of the bill will be a step in rectifying the situation. Speaking about other initiatives in the direction, he said a national policy for infection control and patient safety was being formulated by the health ministry to promote safe practices in the health sector.

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Female infanticide tells on sex ratio in Punjab

Patiala | May 16, 2010

Rampant female foeticide continues to push the sex ratio of Punjab against females; unfortunately, the evil is more prevalent among the educated, the rich and the urban bred. The 2006 National Family Health Survey shows that prosperity does little to curb the evil as Punjab's overall sex ratio at birth (considered a more accurate indicator of female foeticide) was 776 against 793 in 2001. In urban areas, it goes further down to 761:1,000. However, Punjab's sex ratio of the second child when the first child is a male, goes up to a healthy 1,003:1,000, in other words, after one son, families are less inclined to go in for sex determination tests and foeticide.

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Demand to regularise contractual staff of TB Control Programme

New Delhi | May 17, 2010

“Over a year ago, a 27-year-old contractual employee, part of the government's tuberculosis control programme working in Ghaziabad, committed suicide in his office because his job offered him nothing in terms of job security, health care benefits, pension or even compensation in case of death on duty,'' say All-India TB Control Programme Employees Association chairman R. M. Tripathi. “His death highlights the plight of over 25,000 contractual employees of Revised National TB Control Programme, 519 of whom work in the Capital,'' he added. The Association has now approached the Prime Minister asking him to intervene and look at providing justice to the contractual employees who are part of the successfully running TB programme in India.

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Punjab approves Rs 320 Cr plan for hospitals

Chandigarh | May 17, 2010

The Punjab government has approved a Rs 320 crore plan for the construction of new hospitals and upgradation of existing hospitals across the state. Chairing a meeting of the Health and Family Welfare Department here, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that work on the project should be allotted by the end of September this year. The government has proposed the construction of one new district hospital at Nawanshahr town, four new sub-divisional hospitals at Khadoor Sahib (district Tarn Taran), Bholath (Kapurthala), Moonak (Sangrur), Tapa (Barnala) and 29 community health centres (CHCs) at other places. New equipment for district hospitals, sub-divisional hospitals, CHCs and primary health centres (PHCs) at a cost of Rs 70 crore will also be provided. These include dialysis units, mammography machines, colour-dopplers, ultrasound machines, digital X-ray machines and other machines.

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Bill Gates signs agreement with Bihar to boost health standards

Patna | May 13, 2010

In a move to bolster Bihar's public health standards, the State government on Wednesday signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The objective is to accelerate State-wide improvements in maternal, newborn and child health. Mr. Gates said Bihar remained a priority as far as immunisation drives were concerned, and stressed on the reduction of infant mortality rates, full immunisation coverage and breast feeding. Terming the MoC a “milestone,” he expressed satisfaction at the progress in reducing the number of polio cases in the Kosi belt areas, along with the strides being taken to improve women's health in the State. The Bihar government and the Foundation anticipate the programmes and activities governed by the memorandum to have a five-year duration, from 2010 to 2015.

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Rural health care degree plan as scheduled


New Delhi | May 13, 2010

The Union government will go ahead with the proposed Bachelor of Rural Health Care. This assertion came from Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in response to questions by journalists whether the government would put the proposal on hold in the wake of the arrest of Ketan Desai, president of the Medical Council of India (MCI). The Minister said it was a government initiative where public sector hospitals would also function as training schools with no involvement of the private sector.

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India not to curb population with law: Azad

New Delhi |May 05, 2010

India, the world's second most populous country, is against controlling population growth through legislation, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said. "I firmly believe that equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth of India depends on healthy and stable population. The minister was addressing a national workshop on Repositioning Family Planning for Maternal and Child Health. "Let me make it very clear, that we are not in favour of controlling population growth through any kind of legislation. But by way of generating awareness and persuading people to have small family size for betterment of the health of mother and baby," he said.

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Use of ICT can improve health services

New Delhi | May 03, 2010

Use of communication technologies like mobile phone, toll-free helpline numbers and Internet portals can help in providing better health care services, recent research on the information needs of health care professionals suggests. The study titled "Understanding health information needs at the state, district, block and village levels" was conducted by Knowledge for Health (K4H) and John Hopkins School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs in Uttar Pradesh, funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It focused on the information needs of "ASHA" nurses who number 130,000 in Uttar Pradesh alone.

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Government hospitals to go private in Uttar Pradesh

Lucknow |May 03, 2010
The Uttar Pradesh government has decided to hand over public hospitals to private chains like Apollo and Fortis under the public-private-partnership (PPP) model to improve health care services in the state, an official said Monday. Fifty percent of the beds in these hospitals will be kept for free patients. "Since we have already taken a policy decision to enter into a public-private-partnership (PPP) to improve health services in the state, we propose to start with the handing over of a few hospitals in private hands in four districts of the state", a health department spokesman told IANS here. It is learnt that the state government initially proposes to hand over its hospitals in four districts - Kanpur (Urban), Allahabad , Firozabad and Basti.

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Bill passed for mandatory care to emergency patients

New Delhi |May 03, 2010

The Lok Sabha Monday passed a bill that will make it mandatory for doctors, hospital and other clinical establishments to treat emergency patients and not turn them away on baseless excuses. The Clinical Establishments (Registration and Regulation) Bill, 2010, was moved by Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad in the lower house of parliament, which passed the bill, amidst din and vociferous protests by the opposition members over allocation of 2G spectrum. The legislation also sets up a national council which will classify, determine and develop standards of clinical establishments and also develop standards. Besides, with registration of clinical establishments to be made mandatory, the council will also compile and pubic a national register.

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Bill to regulate clinics

New Delhi | May 04, 2010

The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Clinical Establishments Bill to regulate private hospitals and clinics across the country. “It would also ensure that no clinic runs unless it has been duly registered in accordance with the prescribed procedure,” Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said. The Bill was passed without any discussion as the House witnessed uproar over reported scam in allocation of 2G spectrum and the alleged links of a Union Minister with an arms dealer.

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LIFE ON THE LINE : India among worst places to become a mother

New Delhi | May 4, 2010

Despite progress in reducing maternal mortality, India is in the unenviable position of 73rd out of 77 middle-income countries rated by the new ‘Save the Children’ report for the ‘best place to be a mother’. The report said there was already a global shortfall of 4.3 million healthcare workers needed to end preventable maternal and child deaths. In India, the shortfall of ASHA workers is estimated at a huge 74,000 (government norm is one Asha for 1,000 population) and ANMs at 21,066 (one ANM for 5,000 population in plain areas and 3,000 for rural areas). Save the Children, director of advocacy, Shireen Vakil Miller said, “The NRHM prioritised female health workers from the communities, however, there still remains an acute shortage and training requirement.

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Over 15 lakh malaria cases in 2009

New Delhi |May 04, 2010
A total of 1,533,169 malaria cases were reported in India in 2009, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad informed the Lok Sabha Tuesday. Azad said the highest number of 375,401 cases were reported from Orissa, followed by 228,116 from Jharkhand. The country reported 15,535 dengue cases and 3,480 diphtheria cases last year. The government is implementing an integrated National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP) to check the spread of vector borne diseases. Azad said an amount of around Rs.4 billion was allocated to states last year as grants under NVBDCP.

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Short of 54,000 specialists, paramedical staff

New Delhi |May 04, 2010

India faces a shortage of 54,037 specialists and paramedical staff in health centres. Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad told the Rajya Sabha that only 4,279 specialists at community health centres were available against the required 17,104, while there was a shortage of 11,332 health assistants, both male and female. Out of a total 27,734 laboratory technicians needed at primary health centres and community health centres, the country has only 12,886, Azad said. He added that 8,454 nurses were also required. Also, of the total 27,734 pharmacists required at primary health centres and community health centres, the country has only 20,956.

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Tamil Nadu gets WB loan to pep up health services

Washington | April 30, 2010

The World Bank has approved a US $117.70 million loan from the International Development Association (IDA) to India designed to improve quality of and access to health services in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu. This comes as additional financing to the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project, which was approved on December 16, 2004 with an IDA credit amount of US $110.83 million, the Bank announced. "Tamil Nadu has made impressive progress in improving maternal and child health and further improvements would be achieved by improvement in the overall quality of care, particularly for provision of comprehensive emergency obstetric and neonatal care," World Bank Senior Public Health specialist and project team leader Preeti Kudesia said.

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Umbrella body to oversee medical education in India: Azad

New Delhi |May 04, 2010
The government proposes to establish an umbrella body to oversee medical education in the country and to prevent scams of the kind that have hit the Medical Council of India (MCI), Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said. Once the National Council for Human Resources in Health "comes into being, it will take care of everything", Azad said while responding to a calling attention motion in the Rajya Sabha on irregularities in the functioning of the MCI in giving approval to medical colleges. He said the draft bill on creating the council had been circulated to the states and union territories, 13 of whom had responded.

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