'India not to achieve MDG on MMR, faces health workforce crisis'

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New Delhi, Dec (UNI) India, which has the highest maternal mortality in the world with Maternal Mortality Rate (MMR) of 300 per one lakh births, would not be able to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) unless there was significant shift in policies and programmes with acceleration in implementation, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to the Highest Attainable Standard of Health Paul Hunt said today.

Expressing shock over the high rate of one woman dying during pregnancy or child birth every five minutes in a country of India's stature and status, Mr Hunt said at this rate of progress the country would not be able achieve the MDG which was to reduce the MMR by 75 per cent by 2015 from the basal rate of 1990. India contributes 20 per cent of the present global maternal death of 500,000 per year and its MMR of 300 maternal death per one lakh births was much more than countries like Sri Lanka, China, Namibia and Egypt.

Mr Hunt, who as an independent expert visited Rajasthan and Maharashtra to assess the status of maternal health in the country, said India faced a massive crippling crisis in health workforce as in many parts of the country life saving care was not available to women giving birth.

Rural and disadvantaged areas mostly lack public health facilities forcing women to take recourse to private sector which impoverishes many women and their families, he pointed out and recommended that the government must take help of private practitioners to meet the shortage of specialist obstetricians in the public sector.

This was necessary as at present 2000 Community Health Centres requiring 6000 trained Emergency Obstetric Care have only 700 specialist s, he pointed adding that private practitioners have a human rights responsibility to provide assistance in undeserved areas.

However, to provide a long term solution to the complex problem, the UN Rapporteur suggested the government to immediately establish a high level independent committee to prepare a report on human resources in health both the public and the private sectors with a particular focus on needs of rural and undeserved areas.

The committee should report on wide ranging issues including posting and transfer of staff, he said.

Pointing out that India's private health sector was largely unregulated and not even ''capable or willing to adequately regulate itself,'' Mr Hunt said the government has a legally binding responsibility to introduce urgently an appropriate framework for the private health sector.

He also recommended setting up of autonomous Health Commissions at at the federal and state levels to regulate and monitor the private and public health sectors to ensure delivery of quality health service to all. The proposed commissions must ensure that the health sector operated on fair and reasonable manner securing public confidence and should submit their report to legislatures.

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