64k cr health scheme brought under ambit of Ayushman Bharat

The scheme with an outlay of around 64,180 crore over six years (till financial year 2025-26) was announced by the Centre during the Budget session in February this year. This scheme will be in addition to the National Health Mission
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath at the launch of PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, in Varanasi on Monday. PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana was renamed to bring it under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat. (ANI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath at the launch of PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, in Varanasi on Monday. PM Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana was renamed to bring it under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat. (ANI)
Updated on Oct 26, 2021 12:48 AM IST
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By, New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission from his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, during his visit to poll-bound Uttar Pradesh on Monday.

While the scheme worth more than 64,000 crore was initially named as Pradhan Mantri Atmanirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana (PMASBY), it was later renamed to bring it under the ambit of Ayushman Bharat or National Health Protection Scheme. The Ayushman Bharat scheme aims to cover over 100 million vulnerable families (approximately 500 million beneficiaries) and provide health cover up to 5 lakh per family per year.

“Through the PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, an entire ecosystem for services, from treatment to critical research, will be created in every corner of the country,” Modi said.

The scheme with an outlay of around 64,180 crore over six years (till financial year 2025-26) was announced by the Centre during the Budget session in February this year. This scheme will be in addition to the National Health Mission, the statement said.

The PM Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission is the second central health scheme to be renamed this year. The National Digital Health Mission, which was launched on September 27, was renamed as Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission.

The measures under the new scheme focus on developing capacities of health systems and institutions across the continuum of care at all levels — primary, secondary and tertiary — and on preparing healthcare systems for responding effectively to the current and future pandemics, and disasters, a government statement said.

The long-pending demand of experts to strengthen India’s healthcare system is expected to be met through the scheme as it aims to fill critical gaps in the public health infrastructure, especially in critical care facilities and primary care in both urban and rural areas.

Under the scheme, government support will be provided to 17,788 rural health and wellness centres in 10 high-focus states. At least 11,024 urban health and wellness centres will be established in all states.

Besides these, critical care services will be available in districts having more than 500,000 population, through exclusive critical care hospital blocks, while the remaining districts will be covered through referral services.

The scheme will also allow people to have access to a full range of diagnostic services in the public healthcare system through a network of laboratories across the country. Integrated Public Health Labs will be set up in all districts.

“Under PMASBY, a National Institution for One Health, 4 New National Institutes for Virology, a Regional Research Platform for WHO South East Asia Region, 9 Biosafety Level III laboratories, 5 New Regional National Centre for Disease Control will be set up. PMASBY targets to build an IT enabled disease surveillance system by developing a network of surveillance laboratories at block, district, regional and national levels, in Metropolitan areas. Integrated Health Information Portal will be expanded to all States/UTs to connect all public health labs,” a note by the press information bureau said.

The infrastructure augmentation proposed under the scheme sounds major for a developing country like India, whose public health spend mostly hovers around a meagre 1-1.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Experts believe that the first step ideally should be to make use of the existing medical infrastructure optimally, even if it means roping in the private sector at a higher level.

“Ayushman Bharat is a good example under which several already existing private hospitals have been roped in to provide treatment to the poor beneficiaries of the scheme. The model seems to be working… It can be emulated as there are several large peripheral hospitals existing in the private sector but with bed occupancy of not more than 20-25%. Such health facilities can be made use of by the government, considering most of these facilities are well-equipped,” former director of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, Dr MC Misra, said.

“It is time to get into public-private partnerships for changing the overall health care ecosystem. It will also help in increasing patient footfall in such hospitals and help better train their doctors, nurses, paramedics and other technical staff. It’s a win-win both ways,” he added.

Another area of focus should be to strengthen the existing health care facilities at the primary level, which will eventually put pressure off many overloaded tertiary care hospitals, experts said.

“There is no denying that there is unequal distribution of health care facilities in urban and rural areas but we must understand that health is a state subject and the ultimate responsibility of ensuring effective implementation rests with states. The Centre infusing money is a positive move but it is not only about the money. The implementation is a bigger issue. There needs to be better monitoring at the state level,” former PGI-Chandigarh director Dr KK Talwar said.

“There is a reason why states such as Tamil Nadu and Kerala are doing well. Their model needs to be followed in other states as well. Otherwise, the Centre will keep pumping in money but the end result will not be as what’s expected,” Talwar added.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Rhythma Kaul works as an assistant editor at Hindustan Times. She covers health and related topics, including ministry of health and family welfare, government of India.

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