As a doctor who went round meeting the people at their doorsteps, Dr Ramgoolam was staggered to see young people, children, pregnant women devastated by a host of killer diseases including malaria, diphteria, typhoid, pneumonia, tuberculosis, tetanus, leprosy, hookworms, anaemia, apart from the outbreaks of occasional epidemics of polio which affected children mainly due to lack of preventive measures, including ignorance, bad sanitation, use of unclean water, bad living and nutrition habits.
He helped in the creation of dams and reservoirs at Piton du Milieu and La Nicolière which were completed in 1959
From this realisation, he focused on a comprehensive policy which included preventive medicine and the promotion of socio-economic development.
One of his early actions had been to help in the wiping out of malaria through the spray of DDT and the monitoring of the disease by the Malaria Unit.
To battle against the water-borne contagious diseases, he set out to provide clean water supply throughout the country through piped water. Added to this he improved sanitation through the installation of the sewerage system as early as May 1959 when Sir Alfred Macalpine and Son was awarded 70 miles of sewerage in Plaines Wilhems.
As in the case of education, he set out to decentralise the health services, bringing the dispensaries, health centres and regional hospitals at the door step of the people. He constructed regional hospitals, starting with the SSRN Hospital at Pamplemousses. These hospitals were now equipped with specialist services including ENT at Vacoas, Cardiac and cancer units, gynaecological, orthopaedic, burns, accident, intensive care units.
To fight malnutrition, disease and anaemia, Dr Ramgoolam subsidised foodstuff.He criss-crossed the country with the social welfare centres to provide health and nutrition education, immunization, child, maternal and family planning services.
His vision of health was comprehensive. It encompassed social and community medicine in a package which covered sanitation, immunization, education, clean water supply, decent housing, employment and good nutrition to improve the health of the people. He did this mainly through his Rural Development Programme (RDP) which eradicated the division between urban and rural areas.
Apart from creating employment, the RDP laid the infrastructure for the overall development of Mauritius so that the whole country could develop evenly.Finally rural electrification and road-building, distribution of cows, provision of social amenities enhanced living standards in the villages and wiped out the disparities between urban and rural areas.
By Anand Mulloo 15.9.98