Poor state of healthcare in Punjab

I read A.J. Philip’s three-part report on the state of public healthcare in Punjab (Feb 4, Feb 5 and Feb 6). However, the situation on the ground is much more grave. Work is done only on paper. Fake reports are being made and accepted by one and all.

The paramedic staff posted in rural areas is just worthless. An ANM who has to take care of immunisation, family planning and pregnant women rarely performs her duties. They visit their respective sub-centres only on paper; they either stay at home or do personal work. The male workers who are assigned several duties only make fake blood slides. These malpractices are so synonymous with the staff that without strict action, little will improve on the ground.

The situation has turned messier with the posting of contractual doctors at SHCs and PHCs. Civil hospitals are no better. Emergency duties are rarely performed. Doctors seem unable to diagnose and treat even common diseases. The truth is that a common man has nothing to expect from public healthcare in Punjab. The whole system is rotten, corrupt and needs an aggressive makeover. Lack of political and administrative will is responsible for this fiasco.




Hopefully, the powers that be would wake up, read the three-part report carefully and take effective steps to improve public health in the country’s otherwise progressive and prosperous state.

Of course, public health is as important as hospitals. To quote Dr P.N. Chutani, former Director of the Post-Graduation Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, the government should concentrate more on providing safe drinking water to the people rather than setting up new hospitals. Words of wisdom. Public health is in a despicable state all over the country.

Even the public distribution system is in a sorry state. India’s progress will depend on strengthening public health services as well as the public distribution system.



Anyone who considers himself health-conscious just does not care to visit a government hospital or clinic. He would instead visit a private hospital. Such is the perception about the public healthcare system. Yet, many public healthcare centres are providing exceptional service to the poor. No survey ever highlights them.

There are a few such glimmers of hope near Ludhiana. The Secondary Health Centre at Jagron and Sidhwan Bet have a very good OPD registration and over 80 per cent bed occupancy. This is because of dedicated doctors and specialists in orthopaedics, ENT, skin, surgery and gynaecology.

The Primary Health Centre is not far away. The Talwandi Kalan compound can be mistaken as a well maintained park. Villagers prefer to visit the PHC than to the city clinic. Such government hospitals may not match the private ones in glitter and gizmos, but their doctors and paramedic staff deserve a special mention and need words of encouragement.



People fall ill and spend their earnings on treatment unproductively. The poor people’s money and time go wasted. A daily-wage labourer suffering from TB or typhoid cannot work properly. The BPL people’s plight is worse. In Independent India, every human life is important; it is not a place for the rich only.

Under the new National Health Insurance Policy, the BPL families will be given virtually free insurance from April 1. A BPL family will have to pay only Rs 30. The Centre and the states will pay the premium in 75:25 ratio. Though many states have introduced it, Punjab is yet to chip in. Why?

It is time the Punjab government provided a humanly clean environment to the people. It should improve its healthcare system. Otherwise, fatal diseases gripping the Malwa Belt may spread to other parts of the state.



Healthcare is not about providing basic medical services: it is also about prevention and care through awareness, hygiene and sanitation, especially in rural areas, which is lacking. There are also other factors like inadequate strength and mismanagement of state-run hospitals and PHCs. We are way below other countries in the quality and reach of healthcare. India’s health parameters compare poorly even with South Asia’s other developing countries.  According to the recent Jeffrey Sachs Report, India should spend more on rural healthcare with special focus on primary health care providers. The PHCs should be fully equipped with medicines and emergency services including trauma care.

S.K. KHOSLA, Chandigarh


What ails our farmers

In the article Why farmers commit suicides (Feb 16) Jayshree Sengupta has suggested protecting agriculture from cheap imports, rising costs, credit squeeze etc. But there are several other reasons for the farmers’ poor condition. This requires the prompt attention of the government, NGOs and others.

Our farmers spend a lot of money on marriages, funerals, foreign tours and so on. Some even sell off their land or borrow loans from the banks, moneylenders and other rich farmers. Most want to become rich overnight.

Selling of land dwindles their landholding and they find it difficult to clear the loans which keep on growing beyond their repaying capacity. The rich farmers also exploit the small and marginal farmers by appropriating their small holdings now and then.

O.P. BILLU, Bathinda 



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