Bhopal: Here`s good news for pregnant women in Madhya Pradesh`s rural areas. A free service to take them to a hospital for delivery is set to be extended to all 50 districts of the state that has a high maternal mortality ratio.
The 24 x 7 call centres under the Janani Express - the ambulance service for pregnant women - are currently available only in 10 districts.
"We are extending the services to all 50 districts this year considering its usefulness," Health Secretary SR Mohanty said.
The move comes after a rise in the number of women availing themselves of the facility and an increase in the number of institutional deliveries in the state, which has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios (MMR) in the country at 335 per 100,000 live births.
The Janani Express is a transport facility that takes pregnant women to government hospitals and community health centres in rural areas. The service is part of the state`s Health Sector Reform Programme, part funded by Britain`s DFID.
Faced with the task of reducing maternal mortality in the state, the health authorities in Madhya Pradesh found that one of the major causes of these deaths was delayed or no medical attention to pregnant women, mainly due to the problem of transport.
"It was found that the deaths of expectant mothers occurred mainly due to three reasons. First, the villagers were unaware that when, where and how to avail themselves of the facility," a health official said.
"Second, even if they were aware of the health facilities, they did not know how to reach the hospitals or delivery centres. And third, even if they reached the hospital, there was a lack of specialised staff and medicines, which led to maternal deaths," the official said.
The Janani Express scheme was thus launched to carry the women to delivery centres and subsequently call centres were established through which those in need could place calls to use the transport facility.
The first call centre was started in September 2007 in Guna district. Gradually they were launched in nine other districts of Mandsaur, Neemuch, Panna, Ratlam, Shivpuri, Tikamgarh, Umaria, Vidisha and Jabalpur and this brought about a positive result with the number of institutional deliveries in the state rising from 26 percent to 80 percent.
The call centre is a control room with two phone lines and three operators working in eight-hour shifts. Anyone who needs a vehicle to take an expectant mother has to dial a dedicated number following which the call centre operator notes down the details of the woman and directs the nearest available ambulance to reach her.
At present, a total of 1l8 Janani Express vehicles are functioning in these districts and according to government data, while 2,691 women used the service in 2007, the number shot up to 23,545 in 2008 and further to 36,476 in 2009 in the 10 districts.
Now women in all 50 districts of the state have a reason to cheer.