PMSMA: Mere Commitment is not Enough

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Rudra Prasanna Rath

If earlier pattern of voluntary registration of medicos and para medics is considered as a benchmark of success, one can safely argue that the much hyped Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyaan (PMSMA) is a big failure. At least the campaign sounds like an empty vessel considering the fact that many large scale organization of repute such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UNICEF, Indian Medical Association (IMA) are backing and technically supporting the programme.

The campaign which was launched in the November 2016, aims to provide free ante natal check-up to pregnant women on 9th of every month has itself received a lukewarm response till date from the supporters of the campaign itself. Even after campaign is launched since last two months, only two thousand volunteers have joined the campaign. This number is quite insignificant given the fact that it is supported by IMA who has which have more than 2 lakhs of member’s doctors having their clinics operational across length & breadth of country.

Salient Features of the campaign

  • The scheme is applicable only for the pregnant women.
  • The free check-up will take place on 9th of every month.
  • All kinds of medical check-ups under this scheme will be completely free.
  • Tests will take place at the medical centres, government and private hospitals and private clinics across the country.
  • Women will be marked differently based on their health problems so that doctors can easily detect the problem.

Health care professionals believe that this campaign will go a long way in reducing MMR ( Maternal Mortality Ratio) in States like Odisha, which currently stands at 222 (as per SRS 2013). Inadequate health service providers, lack of accessibility to health service centres and lack of awareness about ante natal check-up are the driving cause of mother’s death during pregnancy. As per NFHS 4, currently around 64% of women complete antenatal checkup in first trimester in Odisha. Similarly, pregnant women, especially from economically weaker sections, tend to be malnourished and lacking in vital nutrients during pregnancy. This often results in children being born with abnormalities and suffering from undernourishment. Even though set ups like Village Health Nutrition Day, Pustikar Diwas etc are being put on place the progress in the realm of reducing IMR & MMR has been sluggish. According to WHO, of the 529,000 maternal deaths occurring every year in World, 136,000 or 25.7 per cent deaths take place in India. This underlines the importance, we should levy on maternal health care.

While the Prime Minister has urged the medics and paramedics to donate 2 days of service to people free of cost, the campaign does not seem sufficient to address the issues of pregnant women. Experts have cast aspiration that hardly anyone would venture out deep into the hinterlands on 9th of every month to provide services to the people where it is really required. Similarly, other group of experts believes that we really cannot continue to run a campaign basing on the voluntary contribution. Even the empanelled doctors are likely to do the screening and check up in urban areas and in village periphery to the urban setup where the service is not actually required. “The approach should be to focus providing these services in remote areas, said Dr Durga Shankar Dash who himself is an empanelled doctor and renders free service to the pregnant women on 9th of every month.

India has seen a lot of improvement in recent times in providing quality health care to its citizens. A bulk of the investment in health care is dedicated to providing quality and time bound services to the pregnant women that includes free consultation, checkup, drugs, referral transport as well as blood supply etc.

However, needless to say that PMSMA is just a good beginning but further fillip is required to promote the campaign. As organisations like FOGSI & IMA are giving patronage to the campaign, more and more doctors need to be engaged in the campaign. Until the registration on the voluntary basis increases, the campaign is most likely to die an untimely death.

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