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“Millennium Development Goals deadline must be met at all costs” Dr Harsh Vardhan asks doctors to strive for zero child deaths in hospitals

Conscious of the government’s responsibility to reducing the number of maternal and child deaths in accordance with United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG), Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today asked doctors at the capital’s Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital to be “zero tolerant” to inefficiency and be pro-active in the execution of their duties.

“The MDG deadline is September 2015 and we are still a long way off. There are many things you all could do to reduce the mortality rate of children. If developed countries can do it, we too should because there is no paucity of money or human resources,” he told the doctors and staff of the hospital.

Dr Harsh Vardhan spent close to two hours inspecting every ward and department of the hospital. He even inspected the toilets and frankly communicated to Dr Atul Murari and departmental heads his views.

“There should be TV sets constantly playing health education films in the OPD waiting area. This will make the parents of infants and children aware of how to avoid diarrhoea and other simple diseases and reduce the burden of this hospital,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.

Since 1956, Kalawati Saran Hospital has served as a government facility for tertiary treatment of children. Its present bed strength is 375, but demand is far greater. An expansion programme is under implementation to accommodate 1,000 patients.

Dr Harsh Vardhan patiently heard the problems of the different departmental heads. One of them told him that the hospital lacks full time technicians for attending instantly to problems with the equipment. Resultantly they have to rely on the vendors’ technicians who take their own time to arrive. The doctors often have to double up as technicians, which affects their attention to the surge of patients. Another head of department related that apart from treating children suffering from cancer he has to serve as nodal officer for the hospital’s new building project.

Dr Harsh Vardhan was accompanied by the Health Secretary, Mr Lov Verma, and the Director General of Health Services, Dr Jagdish Prasad, and senior officials. This was his fourth inspection of a central government hospital in Delhi since assuming office. Earlier the minister had been to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital, All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Safdarjung Hospital.

The Minister noted inconsistencies in the prescriptions written out by the resident doctors. Turning to Dr Murari, he said, “Senior doctors need to train the juniors on the necessity of rational prescribing of drugs.”

Reviewing the infrastructure, Dr Harsh Vardhan said the administration should forward all proposals as soon as possible, and the Ministry would ensure that they are expeditiously cleared. He also assured that the vacant posts of doctors and staff, and the faculty at Lady Hardinge Medical College (which is part of Kalawati Saran Hospital) would be filled up soon.

“I will be keen to see improvements in your hospital because it is crucial to our objective of meeting the UN deadline”, Dr Harsh Vardhan said before leaving.