Beginning September 1, 2014 the doors of 20 Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS) wellness centres in Delhi will be thrown open to senior citizens from among the public for free consultation. Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, unveiled today a pilot project with wide ramifications for the future of public health care. There was wide criticism of the CGHS’ closed door policy towards people in need of medical help who were not family members of central government employees. “This is a pilot project for now. We will see how much demand accrues for the CGHS clinics and the ability of the clinics to handle demand from the general public before extending the service to more people in more cities,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said. The service for senior citizens will be available on all working days between 1.30 pm and 3 pm. They will however not be given free medicines which is only for central employees. On his first day in office, Dr Harsh Vardhan had announced that governance in all the outreach departments of the Ministry of Health would be made transparent. Within the first three months, the CGHS has completed a thorough review of its operations with the intention of identifying vulnerable spots which often offer scope for corruption.
The Minister has ordered that all information regarding medical claims that are pending for more than 30 days be put on the website, http://msotransparent.nic.in/cghsnew/index.asp. Over the years complaints had been piling up over the opaqueness of the process of reimbursing claims. There were also complaints of CGHS doctors prescribing branded drugs beyond the approved list. Taking all factors into consideration, it has been decided that all beneficiaries and the public at large ought to know which the drugs are on the list and so they will be on view on the above-mentioned website, the Health Minister stated. Dr Harsh Vardhan reiterated that henceforth only 1,447 generic and 622 branded medicines will be prescribed. Exceptions will be made only for patients suffering from cancer and similar diseases.
Additionally, it has been decided that CGHS beneficiaries will be provided with medicines for a maximum of one month. In case they are going abroad for extended periods, the medicines will be given for three months, he informed. The CGHS doctors will be forbidden to prescribe investigations or implants that are not listed. A technical committee has been constituted to update the list of medicines, investigations, procedures, implants and other procedures of treatment. Dr Harsh Vardhan said he is considering broad reforms in all wings of the ministry. “I encourage people, especially the media, to probe our affairs so that over time the employees realize the futility of trying to be corrupt. In addition, I will use information technology to prevent corruption at source.”