Healthcare experts urge govt to prioritize reforms, increase spending

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As the newly-elected government embarks on its initial 100 days in power, the Association of Healthcare Providers of India (AHPI) has unveiled a comprehensive agenda aimed at transforming the healthcare sector and creating a ‘Healthy India’. Representing vast majority of hospitals across India, AHPI emphasizes that the NDA government, now in its third consecutive term, should prioritize game changing initiatives to enhance wellbeing of society at large.

To begin with, AHPI highlights the importance of promotive and preventive health measures, sanitation under the Swachh Bharat initiative, access to clean drinking water, and improved nutrition focusing on millets. These fundamental public health aspects are essential in preventing diseases and promoting overall well-being.

The Association further urges the fast-tracking of all sub-centers and urban health centers. These centers should provide educational materials on preventive health in local languages and offer screenings for communicable and non-communicable diseases. Trained AYUSH doctors should be utilized for promotive health roles, while curative roles should remain under the allopathic stream.

Dr. Girdhar Gyani, Director General, AHPI, emphasized the need for strategic policy implementation and increased funding. He stated, “The new government has a unique opportunity to transform India’s healthcare landscape. By focusing on key areas, we can create a robust, efficient, and inclusive healthcare system that ensures the well-being of every Indian.” Emerging health threats like mental health, geriatrics, stroke, cancer, adult immunization, and the impact of climate on human health should be prioritized. Government spending on healthcare must increase to achieve universal health coverage and effectively address these pressing issues.

AHPI suggests a high-intensity promotion of the Fit India Movement to emphasize the importance of physical exercise and yoga. Targeting schools, gram panchayats, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), and enterprises can strengthen occupational health schemes and foster a fitness culture, enhancing overall population health, it stated.

To prevent overcrowding at premier institutes like AIIMS, the Body proposes a strict referral system. This system would ensure that patients are referred appropriately from sub-centers to primary health centers (PHCs), community health centers (CHCs), district hospitals, medical colleges, and finally AIIMS only for tertiary-level ailments, streamlining patient flow and improving healthcare delivery efficiency.

Public health institutes must be made accountable and professional. Drawing inspiration from countries where public health facilities are preferred over private ones, AHPI suggests placing these institutes under autonomous state boards. These boards would receive partial funding from the government and generate additional funds independently, ensuring better management and accountability.

Furthermore, the Association recognizes the potential of the Ayushman Bharat Yojana but calls for its restructuring. The scheme has not reached all beneficiaries identified under SECC-2011, and it is crucial to include senior citizens not covered under other schemes. Additionally, addressing issues such as non-viable rates and delayed reimbursements that cause many private hospitals to opt out of the scheme is vital for its success.

India currently has less than 2-beds as against WHO norm of 3.5 beds per 1000 population. Incentivizing the private sector to establish tertiary care hospitals in tier-III towns and addressing the shortage of specialists by opening exclusive PG colleges are crucial steps. Promoting the indigenization of high-tech medical equipment and advancing the National Digital Health Mission, including the ABHA card and portability of medical records, can significantly improve the healthcare sector.

As the Union Budget approaches, AHPI expects significant allocations for the healthcare sector to support these initiatives. The first 100 days of the new government will be pivotal in setting the direction for a healthier India.