Demographic demand: Kerala government hospitals all set to get more geriatric clinics

14 more clinics to come up in the state, ensuring that each district has at least 1 geriatric centre.
Representative image
Representative image

KOCHI: Taking into consideration the growing elderly population, a slew of geriatric clinics are being set up at taluk, district and medical college hospitals across the state.

Such facilities are already available at a few government hospitals and the plan is to extend them across the state, officials said. “We have set up as many as 16 geriatric clinics over some time. During the pandemic, these were converted into isolation units. Now, most of these units are functional. We will be setting up 14 more clinics at government hospitals to ensure that each district has at least one geriatric clinic,” said Dr Bipin Gopal, the nodal officer for the new initiative. The clinics will be established with grants tied to the 15th Finance Commission.

Elderly care has been accorded special priority under the Kerala Health Sector Support Project, a Rs 3,000-crore, five-year initiative largely funded by the World Bank, he said.

In a state with a large elderly population, initiatives like geriatric wards are top priority, noted Biju Mathew, state head of HelpAge India, an NGO that works for the welfare of the elderly. “The aged need more attention and care. Most of them may suffer from multiple conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and other diseases and might be consuming several medicines. Specialised care is required to improve their quality of life. The state government initiative is thus the need of the hour,” he said.

Each clinic will be a 10-bed facility with anti-skid tiles, rails and ramps, elderly-friendly toilets and other infrastructure improvements. “At this point, we need to improve the facilities for elderly people. Even at primary and community health centres, around 65-70% of patients are in the 60-plus age group. We have improved the facilities at health centres to meet their needs,” said Dr Bipin.

"The state needs more experts in the field of elderly care, and private hospitals should also ensure it,” said Biju, adding that along with infrastructure development, the government and private hospitals in the state must take initiatives to appoint more geriatricians and specialised staff.

Kerala is ageing faster than the rest of India. According to the state government’s 2023 Economic Review, the annual growth rate of the elderly population is projected to be 3.96% in Kerala, while it is seen at 3.28% at the national level.

The elderly as a proportion of total population in Kerala - 16.5%

Projection for elderly share of population by 2031 - 20.9%

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