The Narendra Modi government’s commitment to providing affordable healthcare to the masses has seen the number of MBBS seats double from 50,000 to one lakh over the past 10 years, the number of medical colleges double to over 700, and the number of AIIMS increase from six to 22, minister of state for health Bharati Pawar said on Thursday at the 1st Sushruta Awards organised by ITV Network.
She said offering affordable healthcare has become the norm under the Modi government, and for this, nearly 10,000 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJK) have been opened. She also said that the Aayush Ministry has been carved out of the Health Ministry, and a separate budget has been allocated so that we can research traditional Ayurvedic techniques. She also said that the government is focused on inclusive growth and is working at the primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. The government has developed around 1 lakh, 64 thousand Aarogya Mandirs at the primary level, and tele consultancy has also been started at all levels. Around 20 crore Indians are getting benefits from teleconsultancy, which includes doctor-to-doctor and doctor-to-patient consulting. To meet the demands of an increasing number of doctors, the government has initiated increasing the medical seats in MBBS from fifty-one thousand to one lakh plus seats, while the seats in PG have been increased to sixty-four thousand in comparison to the earlier thirty thousand seats, added Pawar.
The MoS said India had gained international recognition for administering 220 crore COVID doses and is looked upon as a dependable healthcare powerhouse. Health in India is seen as a sector of service and not a commerce sector, added Pawar. She urged the masses and doctors to focus more on wellness and not illness.
MoS Bharati Pawar also appreciated ITV Network for naming the health awards “Shushruta Awards,” signifying the rich history of Indian medical science. Shushruta was a renowned surgeon in ancient India who discovered plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery. He also discovered around 300 operating techniques and around 125 surgical instruments. He was the author of the Sushruta Samhita (Sushruta’s Compendium), a treatise considered to be one of the most important surviving ancient treatises on medicine and considered a foundational text of Ayurveda.
Aradhna Patnaik, joint secretary, MOHFW, shed light on the remarkable success and transformative impact of the Aayushman Arogya Mandir programme in India. The programme, initiated in 2018, has emerged as a cornerstone in the nation’s quest for accessible, affordable, and quality healthcare for all citizens.
Patnaik began by acknowledging the dedication and resilience of the frontline warriors, including Community Health Officers (CHOs) and Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), who play a pivotal role in the Aayushman Arogya Mandir network. These healthcare professionals, drawn from various corners of the country, are now recognised as the “gatekeepers of health.”
The Aayushman Arogya Mandir programme addresses longstanding challenges in the health sector, focusing on providing comprehensive primary healthcare services. The initial hurdles included limited accessibility, fragmented services, and high out-of-pocket expenses, particularly for chronic diseases. To counter these issues, the National Health Policy of 2017 paved the way for the Aayushman Bharat Yojana, emphasising a shift from selective to comprehensive primary healthcare.
The Aayushman Bharat scheme comprises four pillars, with the Aayushman Arogya Mandir being the core for comprehensive primary healthcare. The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) addresses secondary and tertiary care, while the Aayushman Bharat Digital Mission and PM Arogya Infrastructure Mission focus on leveraging technology and strengthening healthcare infrastructure.
Patnaik also highlighted key reforms at the Aayushman Arogya Mandir level, emphasising the paradigm shift from selective to comprehensive care. Previously, these centers primarily addressed maternal, child, and adolescent health, but now they encompass services for chronic diseases, mental health, trauma care, and more. The inclusion of CHOs in Aayushman Arogya Mandir centres marked a significant development, with these healthcare professionals playing clinical, managerial, public health, and leadership roles. ASHAs, or grassroots volunteers, serve as crucial links between communities and healthcare facilities. The implementation of robust IT systems, teleconsultation services, and electronic health records further enhanced the efficiency of Aayushman Arogya Mandir centers. The comprehensive services now extend to the screening and prevention of non-communicable diseases, oral care, ENT care, palliative care, mental health care, and more.
She also shared the programme’s achievements, emphasising the exponential growth from 17,000 Aayushman Arogya Mandir centres in 2018 to an impressive 1,64,000 centers in 2024. The footfall has surged from 32 crores to 241 crores, showcasing the programme’s widespread acceptance and impact. The recent Aayushman Bharat campaign, launched on September 17, 2023, further demonstrated the commitment to reaching the last mile. Over 13.5 crore citizens benefited from the campaign, with more than 6.5 crore Aayushman cards distributed, added Patnaik.