May 30, 2008

Smart cards for wider health access to mothers

The Directorate of Public Health will soon launch a scheme to provide ‘smart’ cards to mothers who seek to access public health centres (PHCs). The scheme will eventually be extended to those seeking to access other government health facilities.

The government is planning to assign a smart card for every mother who registers at a PHC, in order to improve access to health care and remove the disadvantage of distance. The card will have a photo of the mother and the medical history of the family, including immunisation schedules. The mother can produce the card to be swiped at any PHC or government health unit and be treated based on the information available in the card.

“Sometimes, when we ask the people of a particular village to come to a PHC, it may be inconvenient for them. Though their village falls within the functioning area of the PHC, it might be far from their homes,” Director of Public Health P. Padmanabhan said. “With a smart card, they need not let distance come in the way of accessing health care. Take the card to any health centre close by and be treated or get a vaccine,” he told The Hindu.

As a prelude to this, the directorate will give each mother a unique number, which if fed into a computer will throw up all the relevant details. “We are in the process of getting all patient information online. Once it is complete, patients will be able to access health care in any government facility across the State, instead of having to go back to the same PHC,” Dr. Padmanabhan said.

Also, to ensure universal coverage of vaccination, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to double the number of days of immunisation to two a week . This decision was taken after the State’s new immunisation strategy — that involves bringing children to the PHCs for vaccination — raised issues of inadequate coverage. It was implemented on Tuesday, May 27.

“We have noticed that there is 85-90 per cent coverage on immunisation day [with the revised strategy]. That is not enough; we cannot afford to have 10 per cent left uncovered by vaccination,” Dr. Padmanabhan said. Currently, the PHCs have about 100 vans or ambulances to transport mothers and children. More vehicles will be allotted. “Once we have the required number of ambulances, it will be easier to fetch children to a PHC.”

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