Jammu and Kashmir Health Department’s ambitious project aimed at tracking the services provided to pregnant women and children during respective antenatal and immunization periods has proved a damp squib, with the department failing to upload and update the information on online web server of Union Health Ministry.
According to sources, on account of non-availability of sufficient manpower and infrastructure to cater to such a colossal project, the department has resorted to coercing the Program Managers and Monitoring Officers engaged under NHM into working as Data Entry Operators, asking them to upload the data on the internet based Mother & Child Tracking System (MCTS).
Although, the officials have been able to register most expectant mothers and new born children on the online system, but they are finding it an impossible task to update the data of continuously provided services to the clients, as the data keeps accruing with every passing day.
“New pregnant women are registered for Antenatal Checkups every day and updating the services provided keep accruing for 9 to 10 months until they get their post-natal checkups. Since there is only one officer for monitoring and evaluation of NHM in every block, it becomes impossible for him to track thousands of women and upload their data on the internet continuously”, said one Program Manager wishing anonymity.
In case of tracking immunization of every single child, the task is even more daunting, as every child needs to be tracked up to 16 years of age. With scores of children being registered every day, the number would run into lakhs at one point of time and it would be unthinkable to track them without sufficient workforce and other facilities, he adds.
The authorities are helpless in providing internet connectivity to the managers in absence of such services in far flung areas. “In most of the rural areas especially the far flung areas of Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri, Poonch Kupwara, Bandipora, Kargil and Leh, there is no internet connectivity available. If at all, the connectivity is so poor that it proves insufficient to work with it. Same is the case with electricity”, says one of the officials wishing anonymity.
“They are not ready to listen to any logic. They just want us to get the job done without showing even one bit of concern for the heavy workload or the technical problems. This is coercion and exploitation of educated youth at its worst”, said an agitated Monitoring Officer. MCTS, a web based application developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) is no help either to these aggrieved young managers.
“The application crashes time and again throwing errors and exceptions every now and then. It is extremely time consuming and lacks even one bit of robustness”, said a manager who looks after the technical aspect of the project. He said the NIC servers usually remain down for days especially on holidays, which makes it impossible for the officials to update the data.
The MCTS project, which is a huge task in itself, has been imposed upon these managers in addition to their already assigned jobs of managing and monitoring the NHM programme. “Conducting camps and workshops, holding meetings, dealing with public, ASHSAs, ANMs, doctors and tackling so many other day to day issues of the mission was our primary job. We also submit information to the higher authorities on daily and monthly basis apart from handling the department’s health monitoring and Information System (HMIS). Rather than appointing operators to enter the data, the department is coercing us to do the job”, a group of the managers said.
To top it up, the department has not even tried to assess the human and material resources required for the project. “We wanted to know what assessment has been done to find out how many women and children can be tracked at one data entry point, but there is none. Some officers have to enter data of a population of 3 lakh while as some have just to cater to 30 thousand. There is no uniformity either which shows the extent of non-professionalism among the higher officers both in the health department and the NIC”, the group added.