A phone call is all that will now be required to get medical advice in Assam, and the prescription will be in the form of an SMS. An ambitious round the clock health helpline number, 104, which, when dialled, will address minor and some acute ailments of patients, besides providing psychiatric counselling was launched by Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Sunday. The helpline service has been christened ‘Sarathi’ (which means charioteer).
With this, Assam becomes the second state in the country after Andhra Pradesh to introduce such a call-a-doctor service.
The helpline service is a public-private-partnership (PPP) between the Assam government and Health and Medical Research Institute (HMRI), a Hyderabad-based non-profit organisation.
Stating it as “another milestone”, health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said the 104 service was a step towards ensuring right to health to the people of the state. Assam is the only state in the country to have right to health law in place.
As per the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two parties, HMRI will provide the required technology and experts, including specially trained doctors, paramedics, and counsellors, for counselling and advising patients.
At the front end, the doctors and paramedics will receive the calls, while at the back end, there will be medical specialists who will guide the development of the content and make improvements based on analysis of the calls received.
HMRI was selected through a bidding process, and as per the agreement; the state government will pay it Rs 5.82 crore as an one-time amount for incurring capital costs and Rs 5.72 crore annually as operational cost.
The call centre, which will be managed by HMRI, will be a 50 seater one and will cater around 6,000 calls daily. Sarma said that if necessary, the call centre can be upgraded to a 100 seater one later.
The call-centre will be centrally based in Guwahati and will have state-of-the-art telecommunication equipment and other needed technology.