VADODARA: The Indian Institute of Public Health (IIPH) which had been asked to asked by the government to do GIS mapping of all primary health centres and suggest locations for new PHCs to cater to increase in population, has recommended that every industrial cluster like JDIC area should have primary health centres with special focus on occupational health.
Revealing this to TOI, IIPH Director, DileepMavlankar says all the government medical colleges should also have atleast one occupational health specialist each, who can be consulted for patients reporting in PHCs with occupational diseases or accidents. ” Once our new building comes up, the IIPH is also going to start Master of Public Health in Occupational Health,” Dr Mavlankar revealed.

The need to focus on occupational health is great In India, where labour is cheap and easily available. Given high levels of mortality and accident rates in work places,the area should not be left neglected anymore. “the first step is to ensure comprehensive data or surveys,” the public health expert suggested at a seminar on Occupational Health Movement in India which was organized by Peoples’ Training and Research Centre (PRTC) organization, here, recently.

The gathering of doctors, industry representatives, workers, NGOs was addressed by prominent names such as Sanjiv Pandita, Director, Asia Monitor Resource Centre, Hong Kong, Sugio Furuya, Secretary General, Japan Occupational Safety and Health Resources and Asian Ban Asbestos Network, and Jagdish Patel, executive director of PTRC, besides Dr Mavlankar.
The seminar, held on the 28th anniversary of Bhopal Gas tragedy, was to mark the 20 years of existence of PTRC.

“In the absence of specific diagnosis– which could be due to any reason, lack of medical professionals, facilities, diagnostic tools, workers’ hesitation or inability to avail of the available facilities, or, sometimes, doctors unwillingness to specify cause of death- there is no comprehensive data available to show us the extent of occupational deaths or diseases,” said Dr Dileep Mavlankar.

Even the ESI hospitals, which specifically cater to workers were not focused on data gathering and in a nation, where one dead workers can be immediately replaced with another, more needy worker, this area continues to remain neglected, speakers said. “Governments’ focus in on terms like productivity and development, occupational deaths and accidents then become merely collateral damage,” the speakers pointed out.

In the absence of proper diagnosis, the worker and his family also lose out on compensation for diseases or deaths. “Since most of these happen to be male adults and often only beard earners of their homes, the entire family suffers.

The economic loss of such families is never taken into account while making plans and policies, ” they said.

“Our society is not generally oriented towards taking basic precautions at workplaces, which is adding to the problem, but this alone can prevent so many accidents and deaths,” said a worker from a leading industrial concern who
described how simple things as wearing gloves and masks had contributed to the improved health of the workers.