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Overarching reforms transformed Indian healthcare status: Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary

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Reforms in healthcare education, financing of healthcare as well as digital technologies have shifted the paradigm for Indian healthcare

Addressing the FICCI webinar ‘India’s Mega Healthcare Reforms- Shifting the Paradigm’, Rajesh Bhushan, Health Secretary, Government of India, highlighted the various reforms undertaken by the government over past few years.

“Overarching reforms like the National Health Policy 2017 and the National Health Mission have led to remarkable progress in the healthcare status of the country,” he added.

FICCI paid a special tribute to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for completing 20 successful years in the public life by supporting the ‘Sewa Aur Samarpan Abhiyan’ through this event on World Heart Day.

Rajesh Bhushan stated that in the field of medical education, critical reforms like passing of the National Medical Commission (NMC) Act in August 2019, the National Commission for Allied and Healthcare Professional (NCAHP) Act, 2020 have been undertaken. While NMC has helped to increase the UG and PG level seats for doctors, the NCAHP has enabled the constitution of a National Commission as well as State Councils to regulate more than 50 diverse allied and healthcare professions for their standards and services. He shared that, on the lines of the NMC, governance reforms for Nursing and Dental education are also in the pipeline.

“The government has simplified and rationalised the setting up of new medical colleges and launched a centrally sponsored scheme for upgradation of existing medical colleges. Out of the 157 new colleges that have been earmarked, 39 colleges are in the Aspirational districts that will further help in augmenting the human resources in underserved areas,” added Rajesh Bhushan.

He announced that the government’s new District Residency Scheme, aimed at deploying junior residents at the district hospitals will help us in training more specialist doctors, given their acute shortages.

While sharing the financial stimulus given to the healthcare sector under the two Emergency COVID Response Packages, Rajesh Bhushan said, “Health grants to the tune of Rs. 75,000 crore will be provided to the local governments in rural as well as urban areas under the XVth Finance Commission, to be utilised over next five years. This will help in strengthening the primary care infrastructure and services, while reducing the burden on secondary and tertiary care.”

He also shared that Ayushman Bharat, the PM Digital Health Mission, e-Sanjeevani and CoWIN platforms are some of the recent achievements of the government which are creating the roadmap for future transformation of healthcare in the country.

While lauding the Prime Minister and the government for these reforms (Hony) Brig Dr Arvind Lal, Chair, FICCI Swasth Bharat Task Force, Executive Chairman, Dr Lal Path Labs and Managing Trustee, ALVL Foundation, said, “over the last decade, Healthcare has featured prominently in the Government’s policy and legislation and a new era of public-private partnership has started in this sector.”

He mentioned that apart from the main schemes launched by the PM like Ayushman Bharat, Jan Aushadhi, Digital Health Mission, there are several allied programmes and schemes that play an important role in improving health and health services, such as Swachh Bharat Mission, Digital India, Make in India, Fit India Movement, Poshan Abhiyan, Ujwala Scheme, and many more.

Dr Lal suggested that while substantial work has been done in operationalizing the Health & Wellness centres (HWCs), the government should partner with the private sector and leverage their capability and strengths to efficiently run HWCs in priority areas such as ensuring availability of all sanctioned manpower, availability of essential drugs and diagnostic services as well as referral services for patients.

Dr Alok Roy, Chair, FICCI Health Services Committee & Chairman, Medica Group of Hospitals in his remarks commended the government for the unprecedented reforms seen over the last few years, which were never seen earlier. He expressed that the biggest intervention has been the Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) which intends to expand from current 23,950 empanelled hospitals to more than 27,000 hospitals by end of 2022.

He shared that PMJAY reinforced people’s trust in the public healthcare system, while aligning the private healthcare sector’s growth with public health goals, and progressively achieving universal health coverage (UHC). He requested the government to evaluate the private sector participation in the scheme through inclusion of OPD under the scheme and revision in the reimbursement rates to make it sustainable and viable.

Gautam Khanna, Co-Chair-FICCI Health Services Committee & CEO, P D Hinduja Hospital & MRC also expressed his deep appreciation for the series of reforms being undertaken by the government. He suggested that along with the ongoing initiatives the government may kindly consider working towards equitable distribution of medical seats in the country as well as measures for incentivization and retention of nurses and launch of the Nurse Practitioner program.

Khanna also lauded the PM’s Digital Health Mission, which will help in transforming the entire healthcare ecosystem while providing an opportunity for the use of new technologies like AI, IoMT and Blockchain. He further stated that the government also needs to recognize and support the health tech startups who will be able to utilise these technologies and enable more data sharing for better clinical outcomes.

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