Govt considering to introduce helicopter-based ‘Air Clinics’ for North-East Region

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The union government is considering a proposal to introduce “Air Clinics” with helicopter-based outdoor facility for a large section of population which has no access to health centre or medical clinician, according to Dr Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER); Minister of State, PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space.

Presiding over a Conclave of Health Ministers from all the eight North-Eastern States in Guwahati on Tuesday, Dr Jitendra Singh referred to a suggestion which originated after discussion with the Government of Manipur, and said, the concept of having “Air Clinics” with helicopter-based outdoor facility has been mooted with both the Ministry of Health as well as the Ministry of Civil Aviation. “If successful, this could be a boon for a large section of population which has no access to health centre or medical clinician,” he said.

Addressing the meeting, which was also attended by representatives from Adayar Cancer Institute, Chennai; Patanjali; and Yog Sansthan, Bengaluru, the minister also proposed PPP (Public-Private Participation) model to supplement and extend healthcare services up to district level in the eight states of the North-Eastern Region (NER).

Speaking about the last three years of health related initiatives undertaken by the Ministry of DoNER, Dr Jitendra Singh disclosed that Dr Barooah Cancer Institute, Guwahati has been affiliated with the Tata Memorial Cancer Centre, Mumbai under the aegis of the Department of Atomic Energy, as a result of which, the faculty and the supplementary teaching cum clinical services will get upgraded. From last year, he said, super-specialty MCh course in Cancer Surgery has already started and hopefully from this session, super-specialty DM Cancer Medicine will also start.

The minister also acknowledged the collaboration from Adayar Cancer Institute, Chennai in imparting a six-month training to one physician and one surgeon each from each of the eight North-Eastern States, so that they can go back and offer better healthcare in their respective states, considering the high prevalence of cancer in the region.

Dr Jitendra Singh said, “The Ministry of DoNER, with the consensus of all the state governments, will go forward in inviting the interested private healthcare partners from other parts of the country, so that depending upon their capacity and capability, they may be able to supplement the health services in the region. The impetus to healthcare services will be wholesome and holistic, thus also imbibing all the alternative systems of medicine and in this regard, the leading players like Patanjali could have a significant contribution to make.”

Referring to a proposal from the Assam Government for setting up a modern Cancer Hospital with the collaboration of the Ministry of DoNER, Dr Jitendra Singh said, “The officers in the DoNER Ministry are engaged in deliberations with the state health secretariat officers to work out its feasibility and viability.”

In the field of tele-medicine also, Dr Jitendra Singh said, “The Ministry of DoNER will try to facilitate support and help from the private sector so that the people living in the remotest areas of the difficult terrain are not deprived of the benefit of specialized medical consultation.”

Dr Jitendra Singh also disclosed that a number of private corporate sector hospital chains are coming forward to venture in the Northeast. The minister further said that he would seek the help of the Ministry of Health and other related Ministries to consider these cases on the principle of mutual benefit.