Ministry of Health and Population to resume telemedicine servicesThe government has allocated Rs 5 million to revive the long-distance medical consulting facility in some hospitals in remote districts within this fiscal year.
The Ministry of Health and Population has allocated Rs5 million to revive telemedicine services, which have been halted for years.
The services, which was launched in 2009 from 25 districts and later expanded to 30 districts, were discontinued due to the apathy of the concerned agencies under the Health Ministry.
The ministry plans to start the services again in at least district hospitals in the initial stage before expanding them to primary health care centres.
"We will prepare working procedures, set up a hub in Kathmandu to provide consultant advice and procure necessary equipment to restore telemedicine services," Dr Taranath Pokhrel, director at the Curative Service Division under the Department of Health Services, told the Post. "The services will resume in some hospitals of remote districts within this fiscal year."
According to Dr Pokhrel, a central hub to provide consultant advice would be set up at the National Academy of Medical Sciences.
Consultant doctors, as well as specialists serving at Bir Hospital, also the academy’s teaching hospital, will advise the doctors serving at health facilities in remote districts.
Due to a lack of consultant services, patients living in far-flung reaches of the country are either deprived of treatment or compelled to visit big cities like Kathmandu, often spending thousands of rupees, to seek medical help.
Dr Mingmar Gelgen Sherpa, a former director at the Department of Health Services, said that telemedicine services would have been accessible throughout the country and well advanced had they been continued.
"Telemedicine facility is a boon to the country like Nepal, where consultant care is not available in remote villages," said Sherpa, who is also credited for introducing the services in the country.
Telemedicine services were popular when they were launched. Medical officers serving in district hospitals in remote regions used to consult experts of Patan Hospital when necessary.
Dr Sherpa said that countries across the globe are embracing telemedicine services, but Nepal is falling behind.
The government has also committed to providing universal health coverage, which means ensuring health care access to all people and communities, without risk of financial ruin.
“The services should be affordable, reliable and of a high standard, which were impossible without reviving telemedicine services,” said Dr Sherpa.