The Mission Steering Group of the National Rural Health Mission on Tuesday approved hiring of 53,000 male health workers in 235 high-focus districts on contract basis. This will involve an expenditure of between Rs.300 crore and Rs.360 crore annually. The Centre will support the contractual workers for three years, following which States will have to take over.

The male health worker will be the focal point for all the disease control programmes, including malaria, tuberculosis, leprosy, filaria and kala-azar, as well other preventive healthcare activities, including water-testing, chlorination, sanitation and school health.

The Mission Steering Group that met after 18 months also approved additional incentive of Rs.50 to the Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) for identification of suspected kala-azar cases and referring them to the nearest health facility. ASHA will also receive an additional Rs.150 on ensuring complete treatment through regular follow-up.

The patient will also be paid Rs.50 a day for loss of wages. Kala-azar is targeted for elimination in 2010. New incentives will help in identification and complete treatment of those suffering from the disease.

The meeting also decided to involve ASHAs in all the 257 malaria-endemic districts and give performance-based incentives. The total funds involved in the districts for this performance-linked payment would be Rs. 8.69 crore.

In addition, the group approved the proposal for extending ASHA incentive of Rs.600 per delivery prospectively for facilitating institutional deliveries of tribal women residing in the tribal areas as notified by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, in the better performing States/Union Territories. This would involve a maximum expenditure of Rs.43.63 crore a year.

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