Mamata Banerjee on Monday asked health department officials to upgrade the medical infrastructure in rural areas by launching subhealth centres and recruiting doctors, nurses and Asha workers. The chief minister’s directive during a meeting to review the health department’s performance was clearly aimed at wooing the rural populace ahead of next year’s panchayat polls.
“The health infrastructure was upgraded in many areas over the past few years. Some more facilities are in the pipeline. I urge the health department to complete the projects at the earliest,” the chief minister said during a meeting — aired live — with the department’s officials at Nabanna.
She said the government had sanctioned 10,173 subhealth centres which would be set up under the Primary Health Centres by the end of 2023.
“These sub-centres will have outpatients’ departments and undertake primary screening of diabetes, hypertension and other diseases.... These will have diagnostic centres also,” said the chief minister.
Once these sub-centres come up, it will be a great help for rural people who are often forced to travel four-five kilometres to the nearest PHC for basic diagnosis and treatment. During the review, Mamata also laid stress on filling up 10,000 vacancies of doctors, nurses and paramedic staff at the earliest.
“The chief minister is well aware that inaugurating the sub-centres will not be of any help until doctors, nurses and other staff are recruited to run these centres. That is why the chief minister is laying stress on the recruitment at the earliest,” said a senior government official. Mamata said the government would recruit more than 18,000 Asha workers in the next couple of years.
“Once we complete the recruitment of Asha workers, their total number will reach 74,000 from the existing 56,400,” she said. Sources in the administration said Mamata was eyeing the upgrade of the rural health infrastructure ahead of panchayat elections.
“The ruling party is facing questions over issues like alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers. Recruitment through the School Service Commission is the most preferred option for educated youths to get jobs in the state. If the chief minister can upgrade the healthcare facilities, it can work as a healing touch for the rural populace,” said an official.
Similarly, the recruitment of Asha workers will also open up opportunities for rural women. That is why the state government is planning to recruit a large number of Asha workers.