Puri/Bhubaneswar: With over 50 lakh pilgrims set to visit Puri for `Nabakalebar` of the presiding deities of Sri Jagannath temple, the Centre on Sunday said efforts were on to put in place better health care facilities in the seaside pilgrim town before the mega festival next year.
"High quality health care facilities will be provided to the people here. No one visiting Puri from anywhere in the world should feel inadequacy in health care system," Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said.
"Puri district hospital should be upgraded immediately because during the next year`s `Nabakalebar` festival more than 50 lakh pilgrims are expected to visit the town from across the country and abroad," Vardhan, who was on a two-day tour of Odisha, told reporters at Bhubaneswar.
Vardhan, who inspected the Puri district hospital this morning, said it would be converted into a super-speciality hospital with a `trauma care centre` before the grand event.
The Union minister said he went into the details of the proposed expansion project to make Puri hospital a medical college and asked the authorities to expedite the process of land acquisition so that work could begin at the earliest.
Stating that the Centre had accorded sanction for opening a medical college at Puri, Vardhan said after development of infrastructure by the state government the Centre would provide financial and technical support for this.
Besides, all Public Health Centres (PHCs), along the Bhubaneswar-Puri national highway, would be upgraded with central assistance before `Nabakalebar`, he said.
Noting that the number of beds in Puri district hospital has grown by less than one per cent since 1980, he said though there were 325 beds in the hospital, many patients were seen lying on the floor.
Constructed in 1840, the hospital has only 34 doctors, 36 nurses and 52 attendants, he said assuring that he would personally oversee the implementation of pending works so that manpower and facility of the hospital could be augmented in time for the `Nabakalebar` festival.
`Navakalebar`, billed as an important ritual of the 12th century shrine, will be celebrated in 2015 after a gap of 19 years. During this festival, wooden idols of the trinity - Lord Jagannath, elder brother Lord Balabhadra and their sister Devi Subhadra - will be replaced with new wooden ones.
During his visit to the seaside pilgrim town, Vardhan called on the Shankaracharya of Puri Gobardhan Peeth Swami Nischalananda Saraswati and held discussions.
The seer had advised the minister to take care of the `health of the country` (Rashtra ki swasthya) and preserve its heritage and culture, a spokesman of the Gobardhan Peeth said.