The Union Health Minister gave an overview of the government’s measures to improve healthcare in the country at a recent press conference held in New Delhi
JP Nadda, Union Health Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW), elaborated on the National Health Policy and spoke on the various health initiatives taken under the NDA rule, in a candid and free-wheeling interview with women journalists held at Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) in the national capital. Emphasising on the need for comprehensive healthcare, he also informed that the government intends to start universal free health screening for six diseases, including hypertension and cancer, initially in 100 districts of the country.
“A new health policy ensuring universal and comprehensive healthcare would be in place shortly and adequate funds would be provided to the states for its implementation. The government would start universal free health screening for six diseases, including hypertension and cancer. This scheme will be initially launched in 100 districts of the country,” said Nadda.
He also termed the Mental Health Policy and the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill as very ‘progressive’ measures.
Giving an update on the various health initiatives undertaken by the government, the Minister indicated that four more vaccines — IPV, Measles Rubella, Rotavirus and JE Adults — have also been added to Mission Indradhanush. The mission aims to cover all the children who are either unvaccinated, or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine preventable diseases which include diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, measles and Hepatitis B.
Nadda also answered several questions posed by the journalists ranging from promotion of generic medicines and capping of stents to the state’s role in healthcare and the decision to Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) from receiving foreign funding.
Speaking on essential medicines, the minister said, “Whatever changes are required to provide affordable and quality medicines, those would be made.” He also spoke on measures to make healthcare affordable and said, “One of our cost effective programmes is giving away deworming tablets to the children.”
Addressing apprehensions towards the recently launched Measles Rubella vaccine in a few sections of the society, he said, “The Ministry is trying to allay all such apprehensions. All our programmes are introduced after they go through a long process of testing and committee reviews.”
Talking about the decision to bar Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) from receiving foreign funding, he said that the the ministry has sized up the matter and is taking steps accordingly. He said, “At this point of time, I would not be able to tell much about it. Ultimately, whatever is in public interest, will be done.” The Home Ministry has cancelled the FCRA registration of PHFI, thereby barring the NGO from receiving foreign contribution.
Nadda was also asked about the fate of other programmes run by the ministry and funded by foreign donors. In answer to it, he said that all the national programmes run by the government are ‘well-intentioned.’
On being questioned whether there were plans to amend the Medical Council of India (MCI) Act to make it mandatory for doctors to prescribe generic medicines, he said that his ministry was ‘on the job’ and will come out with some concrete measures soon.
Elaborating on the issue, he further said the ministry will go ahead with the prime minister’s vision. The minister also informed that National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) and Department of Pharmaceuticals (DoP) will not merge with the MoH&FW.
The health minister also hinted that the government was considering capping prices of other medical devices, after the success with coronary stents, “Stents have been added to the National List of Essential Medicines and we are trying to put more medical devices in this list to ensure that medicines and medical devices remain affordable.” In February, NPPA had capped the price of bare-metal stents at Rs 7,260 and drug-eluting stents at Rs 29,600, after declaring coronary stents as essential medicines.
Talking about Affordable Medicines and Reliable Implants for Treatment (AMRIT) outlets, he said that medicines whose cost was worth Rs 179 crores were sold at a cost of Rs 73 crores. He also informed that under the PM’s dialysis scheme, 11 lakh dialysis sessions have already taken place in nine months.