Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today came face to face with the huge gap in the public health delivery system of Mussoorie, an important tourist destination of India. After an impromptu of Mussoorie sub-pision’s two health centres, the Minister called on a medico couple, Dr Sunil and Dr Venu Kumar Sanon, who have been working among the people of the hills with single-minded devotion for almost three decades. The Minister said, “Mussoorie has a surprisingly high disease burden for a region with a salubrious climate. This visit helped me experience first hand the problems of the people and the lack of penetration of the National Health Mission. I will consult the state government on the steps that could bring relief to this region in the short to long term.” TB is prevalent in the region despite the DOTS programme. The people suffer from chronic bronchitis due to smoking which is highly prevalent. More than half the people have Vitamin D deficiency. Emphysema, osteo arthritis, hyper acidity, high BP, heart disorders and Diabetes are very common. The Minister was informed that though the pulse polio campaign met with success in the district, other forms of immunisation like DPT have not. The Minister visited the two government health facilities in Mussoorie: Community Health Centre in Landhaur and St. Marry’s Government Hospital in Kulri. Both are awaiting facelifts—the first into a 51-bedded “Combined Hospital” and the latter is just a 14-bedded affair whose original structure is in ruins.
The MLA of Mussooorie, Mr Ganesh Joshi, the Sub-pisional Officer, Mr Rangi Sharan Sharma and the district Chief Medical Officer, Dr Virendra Singh Jangpangi, accompanied the Minister. At the Landhaur centre, he found that the work of constructing a new building is proceeding at snail’s pace. He found only a gynaecologist, Dr Monica Shrivastav, and a dentist, Dr Sandeep Tandon, coping with the rush of patients. Dr Shrivastav told him that the incidence of multiparity is quite high among women of the region. Young women realise they are pregnant when it is too late. The high rate of anaemia, combined with the logistical difficulties of reaching them to hospital in time leads to a high maternal mortality rate.
Dr Harsh Vardhan instructed the CMO to launch an “anaemia awareness campaign” in the region. He also spoke to the State’s Principal Secretary (Health), Mr Om Prakash, who assured him that the funds crunch faced by the state government which came in the way of completion of the new hospital campus has recently been overcome and that work will resume soon. The Rajkiya St. Marry’s Hospital building, a survivor of the Raj era, is on a high elevation and in a dilapidated state. In its place is a working arrangement with the signboard “Government St. Marry’s Hospital” in the Kulri commercial area of Mussoorie. This facility has provision for six doctors, but only three are at present attached with it. It has six beds for men, six for women and two for emergency patients.
“The high point of my visit was my encounter with a committed doctor couple, the Sanons. I was told about them by the SDO and decided to go to their clinic and meet them,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said. Dr Sunil Sanon is a MD in Internal Medicine from King George’s Medical College of Lucknow while his wife, Dr Venu Kumar Sanon did her MD in Pathology from Allahabad Medical College. The two have devoted their entire lives to serving the health needs of the people of the hills. “Logistics erect a big hurdle between doctors and patients in the hills and desert regions of India. We try to reach the people who can’t reach us,” Dr Sunil Sanon told the Minister. Earlier, the couple used to drive for 14 hours every Saturday through the villages of Tehri Garhwal and Dehradun giving free medical consultation and medicines. But since 2007, support from the Manorama Devi Birla Charitable Trust has made it possible for them to make three such trips every week. “Along with my son, daughter and son-in-law, all of whom are doctors, and some like-minded people, we have formed the pine Light Trust with which we give advanced medical care and IT education,” Dr Sanon added. Dr Harsh Vardhan commented: “I have seen two extremes today. On the one hand I experienced the backwardness of a region and on the other I have met two fellow medicos who have given their entire lives for the welfare of the people. I am convinced that if the government can touch the Dr Sanons in every Indian citizen, this country’s health sector will be transformed.”