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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Time to Act - Mainstream Siddha Medicine

The initiative of the Govt. of Tamil Nadu particularly the Chief minister has started paying results in containing the 'Panic' caused by the outbreak of the dengue epidemic in Tamil Nadu. Initially there was a resistance from Public health personnel to admit the outbreak, subsequently efforts were taken to get the actual data on the outbreak from both Govt. Hospitals and Pvt. Health providers. The approach to the management of the outbreak was first to identify the actual number of dengue from all fever patients with ELISA in major hospitals and subsequently in major secondary level centres and disease surveillance by making it mandatory for Pvt. clinics and hospitals to inform public health dept. Awareness about controlling mosquito breeding was also made.  The treatment approach was to provide simple Anti-pyretics and wherever necessary platelet transfusion. Along side outbreaks of water borne diseases like Jaundice and Typhoid  also occurred making it difficult for the public health authorities. 

Practitioners of Traditional Siddha  Medicine started using the conventional 'Nilavembu kudineer' which showed promise of controlling fever and different siddha vaidyars suggested different herbs including Adathoda, Manjista, Pidangunaari to improve platelet counts. Social media was full with posts on Papaya leaves. Individual Siddha doctors and Groups conducted Camps to distribute Nilavembu kudineer. That is the point when CM intervened and issued not just a Govt. Order instructing all hospitals to co-administer Nilavembu kudineer and Juice of Papaya and Malai Vembu but released publicity material in both print and visual media. This became a Game changer. More and more people consumed these herbal medicines from Govt. Hospitals, Pvt. Clinics and even as 'Over the counter product'. Studies where initiated at the King Institute, Chennai which reconfirmed many earlier studies on the anti-viral properties of the herbs which Siddha physicians were insisting on. The epidemic is now slowing down but not completely stopped as i write this note ( 22nd Dec 2012).

Now is time for the key interventions needed to mainstream traditional medicine whole heartily and provide a decent budget for the native system of medicine, which time and again stand scrutiny not just in labs but in Clinical set ups.

1. Inspite of the assurance in Tamilnadu Health Policy note of the Present CM (2004) that every PHC will have a siddha doctor, it has not been done so far- Mainly as no new Siddha Wings were sanctioned between 2006-2011. Therefore about 40% of the rural population to do not  have access to Siddha Medicine even within the state. Another 30% have only a limited access as in about 450 PHC Siddha wing operate with contract physicians on a very low salary for 3 days a week. The Chief minister should take personal interest to convert in the first step the part time centres into Full fledged Siddha Wings. With building infrastructure already in place under NRHM  only additional post of Siddha Medical officers and paramedics need to be created and of course supply of quality medicines. The budget would be an additional Rs60 crore /annum (15 lakhs/Centre) Which is not impossible for a State like Tamil Nadu. Subsequently Rest of the PHCs could have Siddha wings in a phased manner.This will greatly reduce the health expense burden of the  people of Tamil Nadu and as Traditional medicine focus on Prevention and Promotive health - Productivity of the state will go up with a healthy population.

2. CM has been kind enough to sanction even a budget for starting an ISM university as early as Feb 2012 but unfortunately  even the spade work has not started. A competent Siddha expert with rich experience in establishing Institutes, Research council and worked closely in framing regulations with adequate expertise in Finance Planning and budgeting and ability to team up with the central govt and get the 'Acts & Rules' in place and mobilize central resources may be appointed immediately as Special officer. He need not have to be an academician as once the University is in place an Academician may be Posted as Vice- Chancellor.

3. All Siddha wings and hospitals which have external therapy facilities under the Centrally Sponsored Schemes need Para medical personnel and the first batch of therapists trained by the two Govt. Siddha Medical Colleges  are already available and they may be posted immediately.

4. It is the right time to fill all vacancies of higher faculties in Siddha Medical Colleges so that hospital, teaching and research activities happen in full swing with some additional infrastructure.