Tamil Nadu: Health sector needs post-pandemic booster shot | Chennai News

As Chief Minister MK Stalin Completes a year in the office, YOU, in a series of articles, examines how the DMK Government has done on various fronts. Today: Health
After facing waves of delta and omicron variants, Tamil Nadu’s healthcare system is slowly returning to normal. But experts say that without significant immediate intervention, it could take years for the state to repair the damage caused by the pandemic.
With the state now only seeing a small number of new Covid-19 cases each day, doctors say Tamil Nadu is more likely to face systemic challenges with much more complex and chronic illnesses. “Over the past two years, there have been retractions in preventative checks, elective surgeries and, in several cases, even emergency care, resulting in increased morbidity and mortality,” said the director of public health, Dr. TS Selvavinayagam. A Lancet study, which he co-authored, showed how excess deaths in the city of Chennai led to a drop in life expectancy of almost four years during the pandemic years. Although there is no data on the effect of excess deaths on life expectancy in all districts, the situation, according to Dr Selvavinayagam, is likely to be similar.
Experts say the state’s health care system won’t collapse, but delayed diagnosis and treatment could become routine. This can lead to increased complications, higher medical costs and poor outcomes, mainly for people with chronic conditions and the elderly – one of the main challenges that the DMK government identified during the first months of its governance. .
Therefore, he initiated ‘makkalai thedi maruthuvam’ and revived ‘Varummun Kappom’, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said. The “Varammun Kappom” program will offer preventive screening to people through mobile camps in cities, semi-urban, hilly and rural areas. The “makkalai thedi maruthuvam” program will provide services, including drug delivery, dialysis, physiotherapy and palliative care, at home. “The goal is to reduce complications and deaths from non-communicable diseases with minimal cost to people. We don’t want them to skip a day’s pay to go to the hospital for treatment or postpone treatment,” Subramanian said.
More than 60,000 people received home care and more than 1,000 medical camps were organized in less than a year. “It’s a good start, but policymakers shouldn’t assume they’re closer to the finish line,” said T Sundararaman, public health expert and former director of the National Health Systems Resource Center. The state must focus and invest more in preventive primary health care if it wants to improve health indices, he said.
“But unfortunately we are seeing a reduction in health care benefits this year,” he added. H Allocations for the health department in the state budget for 2022-23 at Rs 17,901. 73 crore is Rs 1,000 crore lower than the revised budget for 202122. The finance department gave two reasons to reduction, including a steady decline in Covid-19 cases. He said the funds he allocated for the creation of 11 new medical schools in 2021 need not be carried over to 2022. But the 6% reduction in allocations worries many health experts, who want more funds for primary health care centres.
In recent discussions of the state’s health care needs, members of the state’s planning commission recommended 70 percent of the primary and preventative care allocation for communicable, noncommunicable, and reproductive health. Senior vascular surgeon Dr J Amalorpavanathan, who is one of the members of the planning commission, said the commission had recommended an expansion of services in primary care centers, where there are nearly 25,000 beds . “In addition to maternal and child care, we should expand services for the prevention and management of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension,” he said.

Giving muscle to primary health care is likely to improve health outcomes, in addition to drawing crowds away from tertiary care settings. “If only people in need come to the big centres, the quality of care and services will improve. Covid has taught us to reserve beds in major hospitals for people who need this type of care,” said director of medical training, Dr R Narayanababu.
The health department has identified fixes for several weak joints in tertiary care – establishment of a multi-specialty hospital in Guindy as there are no government hospitals in South Chennai, construction of a huge cancer hospital in Kancheepuram and expansion of the mental health institute into a mental health and neuroscience institute.
The wait continues for state health policy, however. “It’s important because it helps establish guidelines that benefit patients, healthcare organizations and our healthcare system. Having protocols in place can help prevent human error and miscommunication around medical decisions,” Dr Sundararaman said.
The state initiated the process, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said. A group of experts is working to write a policy that will not only help health care providers and administrators, but also provide the best patient care and gather evidence to inform future policies. On a broader level, it will help patients understand benefits and rights.
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