Recent changes have increased workload for village health nurses

The health department in the district is encountering hiccups in taking the Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddy Maternity Benefit Scheme to the doorsteps of antenatal mothers belonging to the below poverty line (BPL) families effectively after the recent changes made in the scheme.

The changes brought in by the government in the implementation of the scheme from June last year had increased the responsibility of the village health nurses (VHN) thus leading to poor enrolment of antenatal mothers under the scheme.

Though the changes had ensured greater transparency in the execution of the scheme, the increased workload for the VHNs led to slow performance in the identification of eligible beneficiaries and their enrolment.

As a result, all the eligible ante-natal mothers were not covered under the scheme, sources in the health department said.

Under the revised scheme, the total amount of Rs. 12,000 is being directly credited to the bank account of the mothers in three installments – a mother is eligible for receiving the first installment of Rs. 4,000 after minimum of three check-ups at the end of seven months, the second installment of Rs. 4,000 after the baby is delivered in a government institution and Rs. 4,000 when the baby completes immunization up to the third dose of DPT.

VHNs were responsible for identification of eligible ante-natal mothers and their enrolment, delivery of baby and child immunization.

They had to enter all these details using the department's online software with the help of data entry operators.

This increase in the responsibility had led to the slow performance of the VHNs and in some places, the number of eligible mothers enrolled under the scheme had come down.

The district administration had recently suspended a VHN after she was found not implementing the scheme by enrolling the ante-natal mothers.

“Previously, the rules were flexible. Even mothers who had their deliveries in private hospitals were eligible for financial assistance.

So the women themselves came to the primary health centres and sub centres to register and receive the cheques under the scheme.

This had made our job easy. But now, we have to do a major part of the work under the scheme,” VHNs pointed out.

“Each VHN had to cover more than 5,000 to 10,000 people. They had to travel frequently to the villages to identify the ante-natal mothers. As a result, many of them are not showing an interest in ante-natal registration under the scheme,” a senior official in the health department pointed out.

To motivate the VHNs and ensure effective implementation, the government could consider providing financial support for ante-natal registration under the scheme.

“The government provides a sum of Rs. 50 to the VHN, if she brings a pregnant mother to the primary health centre. A similar kind of support can be given.

“It will ensure effective implementation of the maternity benefit scheme,” another official in the department suggested.

Changes made in June last year have ensured greater transparency in executing scheme

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