Dr Harsh Vardhan addresses The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health’s (PMNCH) ‘Accountability Breakfast’

Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare  participated in the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) ‘Accountability Breakfast’ through Video Conference. The event was co-hosted by the White Ribbon Alliance (WRA) and Every Woman Every Child (EWEC). A recurrent theme this year was the effort to protect hard earned gains in the field of Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health from the COVID pandemic.         

Speaking on the impact of COVID-19 in the area of maternal and child health, Dr. Harsh Vardhan observed, “The maximum impact has been felt by women, children and adolescents and this called for urgent action.” He mentioned that at the national level, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had issued guidance to the States to ensure that women, children and adolescents continue to get all the healthcare services and that he had personally taken this up with the health ministers of all the States.” 

“We are in a constant dialogue to ensure that these services are made available to women, children and adolescents remain in focus despite the health systems being under severe strain due to COVID epidemic.” 

The Minister spoke of the government’s stated policy of no denial for essential services, like-Reproductive Maternal Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (RMNCAH), Tuberculosis, chemotherapy, dialysis and healthcare of the elderly, irrespective of the COVID status, the free testing and treatment for COVID across government health facilities and the inclusion of COVID in the medical conditions covered under the Ayushman Bharat – PM JAY insurance package provided by the government, which caters to almost 500 million people from the weakest socio-economic strata. He expressed satisfaction that these steps have helped in reducing reduce Out-of-Pocket-Expenditure of those affected

Dr. Harsh Vardhan while addressing a question on a women’s choice during maternal care reckoned that maternity care goes much beyond healthcare services for the mothers but sets into motion a lived reality of the woman who depends on a responsive system to cater to her needs of not only services but also dignity, privacy, confidentiality, choice and respect for her as well as her baby; “It is not just about a provider or a client, it’s about human dignity”. Elaborating on the idea, he said “From instilling a behavioral change to help more women deliver in hospitals to entitlement for absolutely free services, we have come a long way now in providing quality care throughout pregnancy and childbirth with interventions like LaQshya and midwifery care.”

He further informed that last year, he had himself started “Safe Motherhood Assurance (SUMAN)” initiative that brings all these services under one umbrella. “We are now following a zero tolerance approach for service denial to pregnant women and their newborn babies and have also strengthened our system for client feedback, grievance redressal and greater accountability and transparency. The idea is to have a fully responsive and accountable health system that will not only result in a positive birthing experience but also help end preventable maternal and newborn deaths,” he added.