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Sikkim takes a leap in healthcare for all

Gangtok, Dec 10: Seventy-one-year-old P.P. Bhandari from Samlick-Marchak in East Sikkim was for long suffering from frequent episodes of chest pain.

In the absence of proper diagnosis and treatment for patients with coronary artery diseases and related problems, he had planned a trip to either New Delhi or Kolkata to get his heart back in shape.

One sunny morning literally brought cheer to his heart when he discovered that Central Referral Hospital (CRH), a 500-bed multi-specialty hospital in Tadong, had set up a cath lab and cardiothoracic facilities and was ready to diagnose and treat heart patients like Bhandari.

With state-of-the-art medical facilities now in place and state health schemes reaching out to rural households, Sikkim, one of country's smallest states with a population of over 610,000, is today witnessing a surge in improving the overall health of its citizens.

In the last 20 years, the state government has made substantial progress in the health sector. The critical indicators of health, including the infant mortality rate (IMR), maternal mortality ratio (MMR), disease prevalence, morbidity as well as mortality rates have shown consistent decline.

"The infant mortality rate (IMR) of 26 per 1,000 is far better than the national average of 44 per 1,000. The ultimate aim would be making Sikkim MDR free, drugs free and AIDS free," said Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling.

"All health-related programmes are being carried out without any hindrance and I am happy to state that life expectancy ratio in Sikkim has increased by over 3-5 years on average compared to 1994," he added. "We will bring health care to the doorsteps of the people and make Sikkim the healthiest state in India."

The CRH's Super Specialty Wing is set to host Cardiac CT, state-of-the-art anaesthesia machines, 1.5 Tesla MRI, Cardiac Cath Lab, ventilators, monitors and host of other diagnostic and therapeutic equipments.

The CRH already has facilities in fields like Radiology, MRI, Digital X Ray, Cardiac Cath Lab, Ultrasonography, Color Doppler, while super-specialty departments will have Neurology Surgery, Urology, Gastroenterology, Skin and Cosmetology, Cardiology, Cardio Vascular and Thoracic Surgery, Oncological Surgery, and private wards.

With over 37 years of experience and performing 7,000 surgeries, well-known cardiovascular thoracic surgeon Sudheer Deodatta Palkar has joined CRH as a consultant.

With this, cardiology facilities at the super specialty wing of CRH is now operational and open-heart surgery is now available in the state.

"A state like Sikkim needs better and state-of-the-art facilities and I am proud to be associated with CRH. My aim is to serve people of this hilly state who were to travel to metros or abroad for treatment," Palkar told IANS.

Palkar has a vast range of experience in open-heart surgeries especially, coronary bypass surgeries. He has performed vascular surgery in abdominal and peripheral vessels, thoracic cases lung-trachea-esophagus-pericardium and permanent pacemaker implantation.

He has also performed rare surgeries like mirror image Dextro Cardia with DORV (Double Outlet Right ventricle), Ebstein Anamoly with Dextro Cardia with TI (Tricuspid incompetence) and CCF (congestive cardiac failure), BENTLE's procedure and partial Ectopia Cordis with DORV.

Currently, Sikkim has one state referral hospital, four district hospitals, 25 primary healthcare (PHC) centres, 147 sub-PHC centres and one medical college.

One major initiative launched in Sikkim is the Chief Minister's Comprehensive Annual and Total Check-Up for Healthy Sikkim (CATCH) which is designed to undertake routine check-ups to provide preventive and remedial measures. Reaching out to the rural hinterland, the plan engages people of all ages and categories, especially BPL families and senior citizens who are unable to travel long distances for effective health care.

In south district, 146 camps have been organised after the introduction of CATCH, with 22,683 people examined and 33,812 lab tests conducted. The plan targets the entire Sikkimese population by end of this year.

States like Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh have appreciated the programme and have shown interest in adopting it.

Update: 10-December-2013