In a first-of-its-kind, the northeast region will get India's first Air Dispensary, Minister of Development of North East Region (DONER) Jitendra Singh revealed. If found successful, the Northeast model of "air dispensary" can be emulated in other hill states of the country.
For the air dispensary, which will be based in a helicopter, the government has contributed Rs 25 crore as initial funding.
"For quite a few months, the DoNER Ministry had been exploring the idea of introducing a helicopter-based Dispensary/OPD service in such far-flung and remote areas where no doctor or medical facility is available and the patients in need also do not have access to any medical care," said Singh after a meeting with the representatives of the aviation sector and helicopter services.
The government aims to start the project by the beginning of 2018. Nearly a third of India's population does not have access to proper hospital bed care, as a result of which poor patients living in remote areas remain deprived of crucial medical care.
"The experiment being introduced in the Northeast, at the behest of the Ministry of Northeast/DoNER, can also be emulated in other hill states having difficult topography like Jammu & Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh," said Singh.
The minister said that as per the envisaged plans, the helicopters would be based at two locations -- Imphal in Manipur and Shillong in Meghalaya -- to begin with.
"Both these cities have premier postgraduate medical institutes from where specialist doctors, along with the necessary equipment and paramedical staff, would be able to move into the helicopter and hold a dispensary/OPD in different locations across the eight states of the region," said Singh.
On its way back, the same helicopter can also transport a sick patient requiring admission to a city hospital.
Giving an account of other new helicopter service plans for the northeast, Singh said: "Three twin-engine helicopters are planned to be placed for initial operation on six routes in regions around Imphal, Guwahati and Dibrugarh."