North Chennai residents demand more health centres

People are forced to use private clinics or hospitals; else, commute over 5 km to visit a nearby government hospital or clinic. Though there are PHCs in the locality, they lament over the lack of specialists especially during emergencies.
A primary health centre in Ernavoor without a doctor
A primary health centre in Ernavoor without a doctor

CHENNAI: Though the civic body authorities claim there is an increase in the usage of Urban Primary Health Centres (UPHC) and Urban Community Health Centres (UCHC) in the city, residents of north Chennai demand more PHCs, as most of them have been shifted or removed a decade ago.

People are forced to use private clinics or hospitals; else, commute over 5 km to visit a nearby government hospital or clinic. Though there are PHCs in the locality, they lament over the lack of specialists especially during emergencies.

Most residents in northern parts of the city work for daily wages, which is why they depend on PHCs. For instance, a PHC at Erneeswaran Nagar in Ernavoor is famous among residents of 20 streets, especially among the pregnant women who go for regular check-ups.

Over 15 years ago, a CHC with 100 beds shifted to Tiruvottiyur Elaiyamman Koil without offering a valid reason to the residents, who protested it at the time.

“After several petitions that were filed for a long time, a healthcare centre was set up, but it did not have a doctor. Only a nurse administers the hospital, and in case of an emergency, without proper check-up, they prescribe medicine. When questioned about the absence of a doctor, they claim that the contract has ended, and had failed to appoint a new one,” said K Ventakattaiya, a long-time resident of Erneeswaran Nagar, Ernavoor.

He added that for the past two years, residents have been forced to travel long distances to a UPHC located in the tsunami quarters. “It’s a risk for pregnant women, as they have to cross a railway track,” he pointed out.

Around 7-8 UPHCs, which were frequented by the residents of Jothi Nagar and Shanmugam Nagar, were removed in the last five years. “We don’t prefer private hospitals or clinics, as they overcharge. If there’s a PHC at each ward in north Chennai, it’d reduce the burden of commuting,” they stated.

Similarly, people from Ennore and Manali raise concerns over the lack of UPHC. “Though there is UPHC and UCHC in the locality, there’s a shortage of doctors and nurses there. Earlier, the concerned department claimed they were asked to remove the centre to reduce the number of employees,” recalled Bakkialakshmi, a resident of Ennore.

Residents in north Chennai, including in neighbourhoods like Tiruvottiyur, Perambur and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar, demand additional PHCs and CHCs, and urge the government to appoint specialists quickly. The nearest GH is the Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital, which is far from all these localities.

“During emergency cases, we’re forced to commute from Perambur to Stanley, which is the nearest GH. And the travel costs are higher during the night hours. When there was a UPHC in the locality, it was helpful,” said S Murali, a resident of Perambur.

The Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi clarified: “At present, we’ve 140 PHCs and 16 CHCs. We’ve established a UPHC for every 50,000 population. The UCHC provides emergency medical care services from the government.”

There are 3 medical college hospitals, two general hospitals and a communicable diseases hospital in north Chennai to provide emergency and specialist care services. “We’re in the process of expanding these services by establishing 200 health and wellness centres, one each at all 200 divisions. Also, we may expand the services based on demand,” added Bedi.

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