“As many as 40 per cent of the 45 million cardiac patients in India are in rural areas where facility for diagnosis and treatment is almost nil,” says Pankaj Kumar Srivastava, cardiac surgeon attached to the Chennai-based Dr. K.M.Cherian Heart Foundation.

Talking to The Hindu here on Sunday, Dr Srivastava, who was recently honoured with the ‘Servant of the Poor' title by the Confederation of NGOs of Rural India (CNRI), stressed the need to strengthen cardiac care in rural India. A recent study by the National Commission on Macroeconomics and Health (NCMH) said the number of cardiac patients in the country would be around 65 million by 2015.

Dr. Srivastava is also the tele-medicine-in-charge at the St. Gregorios Cardiology Centre at Parumala, which is deemed as the first tertiary cardiac care centre in the country. He said the foundation had set up the cardiac super-specialty hospital at Parumala, a remote village in Pathanamthitta district, in the backdrop of the increasing urgency to cater to the health needs of the rural population. Inaugurating the paediatric cardiology facility and rural tele-medicine connectivity at the Parumala hospital in 2005, the then President A.P.J.Abdul Kalam had noted that the venture was a “dream of every rural Indian.”

Dr. Srivastava said cases of cardiac ailments in India were on the rise. Diabetes, hypertension and heart diseases had become common in rural areas too, mainly owing to modern lifestyle.

He said the number of trained medical practitioners in the country was as high as 1.4 million, including 0.7 million graduate allopaths. However, the rural areas were still unable to access the services of the allopaths as 74 per cent of graduate doctors lived in urban areas, serving only 28 per cent of the population

Paramedical staff

Dr. Srivastava said the nurse-population ratio in India in 2004 was merely 1:1,250 which was grossly inadequate compared to that in Europe (1:100-200) and even less than various other developing countries like Sri Lanka (1:1,100) and Thailand (1:850). Similarly , the nurse-doctor ratio in the country was 1.35:1, compared to 3:1 in the developed countries.

Dr. Srivastava said the rural population should be made aware of their problems in an objective manner as well as the solutions available.

He said though a number of primary health centres and community health centres had been covered under the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), the remote areas still remained uncovered.

He said the Union and State governments should take the initiative of the Foundation in extending latest cardiac care facility to a remote village like Parumala as a role model to provide similar facility in various other parts of the country.

Mr. Srivastava who has conducted as many as 30 free cardiac care camps in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh, says lack of exercise and modern food habits started creeping into the rural India too, leaving its negative impacts on the health front.

According to him, 80 per cent of the heart diseases are preventable by modifying our lifestyle, increasing physical activity and controlling diet.