“Request FM to raise allocation for health”

pankaj

Pankaj Kumar | July 9, 2014


Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union health minister
Photo: Arun Kumar

A medical practitioner-turned-politician, Dr Harsh Vardhan got cracking in his new role as the union health minister as soon as he assumed office. Besides promising better health care facilities and making regular rounds of key hospitals, the Lok Sabha MP from Chandni Chowk, Delhi, has also written to finance minister Arun Jaitley seeking to remove tax exemption granted to beedi manufactures and suggesting a steep increase in taxes on cigarettes. In an interview with Pankaj Kumar, Dr Harsh Vardhan explains how he plans to improve health facilities in the country. Excerpts:

We have the universal health coverage plan to ensure proper health care. How are you going to make it more effective, considering India allocates only a little more than 1 percent of GDP on the health sector?
We are consulting experts and trying to study all schemes across the country as well as health schemes (implemented) all over the world. Our expert group will subsequently finalise the mechanism to initiate a proper scheme so that the maximum number of people get benefits. I am meeting (health) ministry officials and chalking out focus areas, as it is the duty of every government to provide a proper health care to the people.

I am a medical professional and my expertise and experience as a health minister in Delhi and otherwise in the medical profession will help me handle the ministry better.

India ranks 171st among 175 countries in terms of public health expenditure. Are you going to demand more funds for the sector since you follow the dictum ‘health is more important than wealth’?
We will certainly request the finance minister to increase allocation for health as we believe strongly that the health budget is grossly deficient.

Data suggests that 39 million people are forced into poverty every year due to high medical expenditure. Also, out-of-pocket expenditure is very high – and then out of 78 percent health expenditure, 74 percent is spent on drugs alone. How do you plan to address this?
I am trying to ensure that all poor people in the country get some essential drugs free of cost at all health facilities. We are going to ensure a process of implementation of rational use of drugs programme for the country.

The quality of drugs is also a major concern. Recently the US food and drug administration banned some Indian drugs over quality issues. Another pertinent subject is irrational use of medicines, besides huge production of hazardous and inessential medicines.
We are working out a comprehensive programme on various aspects of health and we will let the people know as soon as we finalise it. Let me assure the people that we are consulting experts of international repute from India as well as abroad and health is high on this government’s priority list.

While the ideal doctor-patient ratio should be 1:1,000 according to WHO, it is 1:2,000 in India. How are we going to meet this deficit if more colleges are not given permission or seats are not increased in the present institutions?
We have received complaints against the medical council of India (MCI) and are examining it. The vast gap between India’s population and the number of doctors has to be reduced keeping in view the quality of medical education. We are working on a process of overall reforms in medical education.

It (complaints against MCI) is a very serious issue and we are going to change the thinking, vision and working style of the MCI because total percent transparency in the system is need of the hour.

How are you planning to clean up the system? Do you have any specific strategies in mind?
We are concentrating on e-governance. The idea is to give a corruption-free and transparent administration.

You plan to set up AIIMS-like institutions across the country? How many states will have such facilities?
We are finalising the number of states where we can open AIIMS-type institutions. We are in consultation with the state governments that are ready to allot land for this.

We recently received a request from Andhra Pradesh and we have asked them to identify the land required (to set up any such institution). We are concerned for other states as well and are trying to expedite work on the six new AIIMS. This is being done under the pradhan mantri swasthya suraksha yojana (PMSSY)  to correct regional imbalances in health care in the underserved areas of the country.

What will you do to fight preventable diseases like encephalitis which claims so many lives year after year?
We have asked officials to do complete immunisation of children. We have asked officials to indentify districts in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh so that remedial measures can be taken to eradicate it completely like polio.

(This interview was first published in July 1-15, 2014 issue of Governance Now.)

Comments

 

Other News

First coal rake flagged off from NTPC’s coal block in Hazaribagh

The first coal rake of NTPC’s Pakri-Barwadih coal mine at Hazaribagh was flagged-off by finance minister Arun Jaitley, Jharkhand chief minister Raghubar Das, union minister of state for power, coal, N&RE and mines Piyush Goyal, and minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha, at Ranchi on

AIMIM to contest Pune civic polls for the first time

“Our corporator is missing,” reads a banner on a defunct lamppost in Shaniwar Peth – a densely populated area in Pune, the second largest city of Maharashtra after Mumbai. Many more sprang up in the nearby alleys, a couple of months before the municipal corporation polls on February 21.&n

How a PSU takes land for mining

On October 1 last year, Mehtab Alam Ansari, 30, who worked as a tailor in Delhi, had arrived in his village, Chepa Khurd in Barkagaon tehsil of Harazibagh district, to celebrate Eid with his family. That morning, he was nearing Dadi Kalan, a neighbouring village, to meet an acquaintance when he heard gunsh

Should Nathuram Godse`s statement in Gandhi assassination trial be disclosed?

Should Nathuram Godse`s statement in Gandhi assassination trial be disclosed?

Demonetisation: When cash played peek-a-boo

Post-demonetisation, cash did the Houdini vanishing trick at ATMs. With currency notes playing hide and seek, life was sheer misery. Things improved a bit, but the situation is back to square one. The ATMs are running dry, yet again. Rajiv Bajaj, scion of the family that makes hugely popular

Stories you must read over the weekend

  Tribals in the land of the legendary Birsa Munda in Jharkhand are fighting against the amendments of the Chotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPTA). These were hastily changed by the BJP government – first by an ordinance in June, and then, amendments i

Video

Digital Transformation Summit

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter