Monday, May 5, 2014

Upgrading Health Services

One has been hearing for quite a while that the Sir Thutob Namgyal Memorial Hospital will be upgraded. Anyone who has attempted the back-breaking drive to Ban Jhakri falls of late would have noticed that the initiative is moving ahead in earnest. The plan is to give STNM Hospital a state-of-the-art makeover, increasing its intake to 500 beds and shift it to [at least for now] calmer and more conducive for recuperating environs of Sokeythang. Add that to the already 500-bedded Central Referral Hospital at Tadong, the renovated and refurbished district hospitals, and even the existing facilities at STNM Hospital, and patients in Sikkim have access to upwards of 1,000 beds offering, at least on paper, top notch medical care. Things will improve with the STNM Hospital’s upgradation and one hopes that the policy-makers and medical experts overseeing the upgradation process recognise the embarrassment that Sikkim suffers as a State every time a patient, with even minor complications, gets referred to a nursing home in Siliguri. A trauma centre for road accident victims has arrived in name but is still awaited in practice, and patients with, say, head injuries are left with only two options in Sikkim – get cured on their own [okay, under medical supervision], or risk a long, bumpy journey to Siliguri. Now that a major step has been initiated, one hopes that those responsible for health services in Sikkim, from the policy makers to doctors and nurses – address the real reasons why a sub-division in West Bengal inspires more faith among the sick than a combination of a State Hospital and a Central Referral Hospital. It will be fine if enhanced infrastructure alone automatically delivers enhanced services, because then with the multi-speciality hospital at Sokeythang, things will automatically improve. But that logic is not even close to correct. Hence, while the civil works are underway, the concerned agencies should sit down, discuss, analyse and work out what holds back better health services in Sikkim and have the solutions in place before the ribbon is cut on the Sokeythang project…

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