Kerala may tweak healthcare administration to link modern and traditional medicine systems

The southern state of Kerala, whose astute management of the Covid-19 pandemic has won global acclaim, is interlinking the administrative framework of traditional medicine systems in the state with its public health administrative system to aggressively combat the virus. The government has approved the recommendations of a task force constituted on leveraging the traditional Ayurvedic medicine system. It had suggested cross linkages to be established at the local self-government departments and associates for the effective delivery of Covid-19 fighting strategies.

The report of the task force comprising leading experts such as Dr PR Krishnakumar, CMD, Aryavaidya Pharmacy, Coimbatore, J Hareendran Nair, founder and managing director of Pankaja Kasthuri Group and Dr PM Varier, managing trustee and chief physician of Arya Vaidya Sala, Kottakkal, envisaged grassroots public health components comprising ASHA workers and health inspectors to be enjoined in speeding up Ayurvedic strategies as well. The task force has proposed to rename dispensaries of Indian systems of medicines as Ayur Raksha Clinics (ASCs) which would be the basic units responsible for grassroots implementation. They would operate in tandem with private practitioners, professional organisations and local governments.

The report has also suggested a virtual outpatient platform called Niramaya for tertiary services that were offered by Ayurvedic college hospitals. At the top of the administrative structure would be the State Level Ayurveda Covid-19 Response Cell (SACRC), below which would be the regional cell (RACRC) and district cells (DACRC).

Kerala State Planning Board member, B Ekbal, had earlier told ET that one of the biggest worries was the ageing population and comorbidity of the population. About 60% of Keralites suffer from some other, mostly lifestyle related, disease, he had said. The state, at 12.5%, also has the highest geriatric population in the country.

Nationally, the AYUSH ministry has issued guidelines and traditional remedies to bolster the anti-Covid-19 fight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his televised address on April 13 had pointed out that sipping warm water and increasing the intake of turmeric in food (part of the AYUSH guidelines) would help improve immunity.

The Kerala task force report points out how China effectively used traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in tandem with modern medicine to prevent the spread of Covid-19 outside its Wuhan province, the epicentre of the global pandemic. The country used TCM components in 23 out of 31 provinces for managing Covid-19 infections. It was found that TCM helped decrease hospital stay of Covid-19 positive patients by 22%, the report said. “There was a significant reduction in the rate of mild to severe cases by 27.4% and the clinical cure rate in laboratory diagnosed cases of COVID 19 was 90%,’’ it said.

KV Uthaman, managing director of the state-owned The Pharmaceutical (Indian Medicines) Corporation, better known by the brand name Oushadhi, told ET that the immediate focus would be improving the immunity levels of the geriatric population which is most vulnerable to Covid-19. Uthaman said the state was also exploring remedies in Sidha medicine which was earlier effectively used in Tamil Nadu for managing Chikunguniya.

Over the past two decades, Kerala has emerged as a globally famous centre for Ayurvedic treatment systems. It is not only one of the biggest exports from the state but also a major draw for wellness tourists. The Covid-19 scare is a big blow to the Ayurveda industry whose mainstay was treatments such as oil massages and baths. However, the wellness and preventive medicine based on herbs could get a boost in the wake of the pandemic.

Ayurveda infrastructure in Kerala


Total beds: 3,121 Reserved for Covid: 501

Doctors: 1,957

PG Scholars: 454

House surgeons: 341

Private Hospitals 303
Beds: 5,234

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