Public healthcare expenditure as percentage of GDP to leap from 1.15 to 2.5 % by 2025

Emphasising on the strengthening of the public health system, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan said that the Centre is committed to increasing the public healthcare spending as a percentage of GDP from the existing 1.15 % to 2.5 % by 2025 and that will mean an actual increase of 345% over the current share in this short period of time. In his Sunday Samvad ( Dialogue) with social media users he added that the 15th Finance Commission’s high-level group on health has concurred that healthcare spending must be raised substantially in the next five years in view of the present pandemic.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan also stated that the Central Government has added 29,185 MBBS seats in the last five years. Establishment of New Medical Colleges, strengthening and upgrading existing Government Medical Colleges, relaxing the norms for setting up of new Medical Colleges, enhancing the maximum intake capacity at MBBS level from 150 to 250 and enhancing the age limit for appointment and extension of teachers, deans, principals, and directors of Medical Colleges will help to improve the doctor ratio in the country, he added.

On the disparity of setting up AIIMS in different regions and only one for the entire North East, Dr. Harsh Vardhan spoke of the Central Scheme Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) aimed at correcting the regional imbalances in healthcare. Other than setting up new AIIMS, the scheme also aims to upgrade the existing medical infrastructure in the entire country in a phased manner. Under different phases of the Scheme, the Central Government will establish new medical colleges attached with existing district and referral hospitals in Dhubri, Nagaon, North Lakhimpur, Diphu, Kokrajhar Districts in Assam, Churachandrapur in Manipur West Garo Hills District in Meghalaya, Falkawan District in Mizoram, & Kohima and Mon in Nagaland.

On a question related to ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat Yojana’, Dr. Harsh Vardhan spoke of India’s two-pronged strategy of incentivizing production and creation of common infrastructure for high-quality medicines and medical devices to make the country self-reliant. He said that the government is ensuring that there is import substitution in this sector as well and that we are no longer dependent on imports; “Under these newly-launched schemes, the Government has proposed the development of three bulk drug parks and four medical device parks across India.” He continued “in times to come, we will not just be able to meet domestic requirements, but also be able to fulfil global demand for low-cost, quality medical devices.” He said that in the last few months since the outbreak of the pandemic, India had made rapid strides in the “manufacturing of ventilators, PPEs, testing kits and many medical devices.

The government dispelled fears regarding the phased opening of schools and advised on proper protocol to be followed while visiting salons and hair-spa. The Minister asked everyone to always raise awareness regarding COVID appropriate behaviors which he himself does by stopping his car and asking non-compliant people to wear their masks. He re-emphasized on the need for wearing masks even in places of worship.

He further cautioned that ICMR’s Sero survey report should not create a sense of complacency in people. The first sero survey of May 2020 revealed that the nationwide prevalence of novel coronavirus infection was only 0.73%. Even the soon to be released second sero survey indications are that we are far from having achieved any kind of herd immunity which necessitates that all of us should continue following COVID appropriate behaviour.