People want UPHCs to function for longer hours

The health centre on West Jones Road, Saidapet.

Chennai: People and activists in Chennai seek proper treatment and adequate infrastructural facilities in the Urban Primary Health Centres (UPHCs). A ground survey to a few UPHCs revealed that they were not wrong in their observation.

Within the Greater Chennai Corporation limits, there are 140 UPHCs functioning under the local body.

The National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) states that the hours of operation of the UPHC must enable the urban working population to conveniently access the UPHC and mandates that the facility should function at least for eight hours.

Sadly, this is not the case in reality. In Chennai, many of the centres operate between 8 am and 12 noon: so, the people want the timing to be extended for the benefit of patients.

When this reporter visited the UPHC on K B Dasan Road in Teynampet and West Jones Road, Saidapet, in the evening, the centres were closed and the people in the locality said they operate only till noon.

An autodriver at West Jones Road, Saidapet, said, “The treatment at the centre is not up to the mark and even the doctors are irregular. Most often, the patients are referred to General Hospital. The staff nurse takes a train and leaves the clinic as it is located near the Saidapet railway station, if the doctor is absent.”

UPHC located on K B Dasan Road, Teynampet

He further said the UPHC was part of the centre which is located a few metres from West Jones Road. A resident of Teynampet said, “There is one doctor and a nurse in the facility and the treatment is good. In case of severe problem, we would be redirected to a tertiary care hospital.”

Asked about machines, she added, “There is no scanning or any equipment available here.” In the case of the one at Velacheri, Annai Indira Nagar Residents Welfare Association president, S Kumara Raja, said, “Until three years ago, the facility had an operation theatre, 25 beds and a few equipment. However, following the construction of a UPHC at Adyar, everything was transported there and has not been replaced since. Now, it is functioning as a small clinic and if patients come for maternity needs, they are either referred to hospitals in Saidapet or Adyar.”

Anti-corruption NGO Arappor Iyakkam is conducting a study. Speaking about the on-going project, Kanchan Asrani, representing the NGO, said, “While visiting UPHC No. 96 in Virugambakkam, we learnt that there has been no doctor for the past six months.”

She added that the doctors were not present when they visited the ones at Saidapet, Chintadripet and Pudupet. On an average, she stated that UPHCs function from 10 am to 12 noon for OP consultation, against norms.

With respect to maternity care, Kanchan stated that most of the women were satisfied with the services the doctors offered at the UPHCs.

When a senior official from the Corporation regarding the absence of doctors was contacted, he stated that there was no vacancy. “All the posts have been filled by outsourcing to a contractor,” he said. The official refused to take further questions or add details.

* The concept of primary health centres was introduced in 1946 by Bhore Committee headed by Sir Joseph Bhore to provide healthcare services to people in rural areas. Later, it was extended to urban areas.

* The functions of the UPHC include meeting health needs/vulnerability assessment, facility-based service provision, convergence with disease control programmes and disease surveillance and epidemic control among others.

* There are 140 UPHCs operating within the limits of Greater Chennai Corporation.

Caption: UPHC located on K B Dasan Road, Teynampet.

Caption: The health centre on West Jones Road, Saidapet.

Bhavani Prabhakar