Telemedicine a boon for remote areas
It is dermatologists sitting almost 3,000 km away in Chennai who will diagnose and treat a peculiar skin ailment, afflicting a large number of Buddhist monks residing in monasteries located across the rugged terrain of the tribal district of Lahaul Spiti, which remains snowbound for almost six months.
The treatment of the skin ailment “tinea capitis” peculiar to similar mountainous terrains world over has become possible owing to the launch of telemedicine services being rendered in far-flung area of Kaza and Keylong as a joint partnership between The Health and Family Welfare Department and Apollo Tele Health Services. It was because of the launch of the telemedicine services here that it has been found that many people here are suffering from lung ailments, thyroid and women vulnerable to cervix cancer.
It was during check up of some Buddhist monks for skin allergies that the ailment was detected. “It was after undertaking proper laboratory investigations on hair samples sent to Chennai from Kaza that confirmed the affliction,” says said Dr K. Ganapathy, an eminent neurologist and the brain behind the project.
As such all the Buddhist monasteries in Lahaul Spiti will be screened to treat and educate the monks against the contagious skin ailment besides a two month treatment regimen.
Dr Ganapathy stressed that if left untreated, this skin ailment can assume alarming proportions and even become an epidemic besides having a genetic component where it will be passed on from one generation to another,” he said.
The aim of the project having V-SAT facility comparable with space stations like NASA is to provide health care to people who have to travel hundreds of km for treatment, at times even resulting in death in case helicopter services are not available in this area.
During the last five months since the pilot project was launched in April this year, at Kaza and Keylong, a total of 1,306 patients availed telemedicine facilities. “Depending on the success of the pilot project with the harsh winters being the real test, we intend to extend it to Killar and Pangi in Chamba district,” said Vineet Chawdhry, Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare.
The remote and difficult areas of Lahaul Spiti, Kinnaur and Pangi area of Chamba face a chronic problem of shortage of doctors. As against sanctioned 16 posts of doctor, including seven specialists, there are only three specialists in Keylong whereas in Kaza also there are three doctors against posts of six doctors.
Chawdhry has directed the Chief Medical Officer of Lahaul Spiti and the Block Medical Officers to stock up adequate supply of medicines and diesel for generators so that difficulty is not faced during winters, when road connectivity is snapped due to heavy snowfall.
Directions have also been issued to start pap-smear test at Kaza and Keylong to screen women against cervix cancer.