Subject Area="Monitoring, evaluation and quality control."
Objective="Empowering the common man with Right to Information."
Details for Reform Option "Help Line for Health, Jharkhand"
In a low-performing state like Jharkhand, enormous gaps exist between the common man and the authorities with regard to access to information; there are several barriers even when someone wants to register protest on functioning of the healthcare delivery system. Not only that, there was hug information gap on government activities and programmes that were meant for the benefit of the people. There was no channel to access information or to air grievances.
Swasthya Help Line (SHL) was an initiative that was designed to overcome these gaps and barriers and create a mechanism for interaction with the common man; it would also serve as a tool for monitoring and quality control.
Swasthya Help Line (SHL) was launched on 1 December 2005 by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of Jharkhand. The main objective of SHL was to overcome problems of hierarchy and administrative delays in solving people’s problems and to encourage use of the public health system by putting a check on the ongoing malpractices.
Direct access telephone numbers were earmarked and widely publicised. The numbers were advertised through various mass media. These numbers are: 2261857 and 2261487.
Issues addressed by the help line relate to malpractices, corruption in the department, non-functioning of a health facility or information related to immunisation drives in local areas, unavailability of staff or health worker in the Primary Health Centres (PHC), non-receipt of salary, stipend, etc. Every call is given a unique code and reference number for its subsequent follow-up. Once a call is received, it is referred to concerned officials with its unique code for follow-up and necessary action. If the caller leaves his or her identity, the department gets back to inform the person on the action taken on a particular complaint.
SHL takes the first line of action at the Civil Surgeon (CS) level. The related issues are then transferred to the concerned District Medical Officer (DMO). If problems are not addressed there, it goes to higher authorities at the ministry level.
A weekly report is sent to the health Secretary, which includes total number of calls received, issues addressed, reference number for the follow-up and action taken.
Results:In the month of December 2005, 243 calls were received, out of which 152 were from the general public for inquiries related to health services and 91 calls were from the health department itself. Out of these, 142 have been processed, 80 calls are being processed and 21 calls have to be taken up for processing.
Similarly, in the month of January 2006, total of 261 calls were received. Out of these 136 were from the general public and 125 were from the health department. Of the total calls received, 97 have been processed, 144 calls are being processed and 20 calls need to be addressed.
Logistics requirements include a computer, a telephone line and an operator to register complaints and forward them to concerned officials for necessary action.
RCH Directorate, Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Namkum, Ranchi, Jharkhand.
Approximate time from planning to implementation of the SHL is 3 months.
Direct access: Common man has direct access to information.
Bypassing hierarchy: Minimum administrative hierarchy involvement for problem solving.
Grievance reddressal: Grievances related to the health system are given due hearing immediately.
Public perception: People are now beginning to perceive the government health system in a positive light.
Unnecessary calls: Difficult to filter calls that are not serious.
False complaints: Planted false complaints are registered to get back at officers.
Untimely calls: SHL functions only during working hours, but untimely calls are plenty.
A team dedicated for the helpline with all necessary infrastructure.
Ready reference of telephone numbers of the various government officials, hospitals, ambulance services, and Specialist doctors.
Support and encouragement of the higher authorities.
Who needs to be consulted
District officials, specialist doctors in the private sector, and officials in the Ministry.
Chances of Replication
Replicable, especially in states with low accountability and high levels of corruption.
This is a low cost, simple and easy to replicate initiative to bring transparency and accountability in the healthcare delivery system. It also involves the community, which in the long run should increase the demand for efficient public health institutions.
Dr. Anuradha Davey, Research Consultant, National Institute of Medical Statistics, May, 2006.