Dr Harsh Vardhan, Union Health Minister, today assured members of the newly constituted Parliamentary Consultative Committee of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare that broad expansion of the number of under-graduate and post-graduate seats are being considered without compromising on the quality of medical education. The Minister was addressing the first meeting of the newly constituted Parliamentary Consultative Committee, here today. Responding to the concerns raised by almost all the MPs present, Dr Harsh Vardhan said, “I realise the need for more medical colleges. The criteria for approving medical colleges both in the government and private sectors would be liberalised. However these should not be at the cost of standards.”
The common admission test called National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) mooted by the Medical Council of India in 2013 was quashed by the Supreme Court. After coming to power, Dr Harsh Vardhan ordered that a review petition be filed before the apex Court. “We are sincerely pursuing the matter,” he said. Throughout the course of the two-hour-long meeting, Dr Harsh Vardhan heard out the suggestions raised by 12 of the 19 members of the committee on a number of issues. He assured them that he would include them in a grand alliance of policymakers for the health sector. The Minister stressed the need for building up a social movement over health involving the public, government and all stakeholders. His emphasis on keeping politics out of health issues was warmly appreciated by the members. Ms Mehbooba Mufti (J&KPDP) highlighted the need to end the lack of awareness among the people on simple health matters. She urged the government to provide affordable and quality health care. Starting medical insurance for the poor and a “drug bank” which will store important medicines in anticipation of shortages were some of the suggestions made by her.
Dr Harsh Vardhan outlined the basic features of the National Health Assurance Mission which would have a strong insurance component. The premiums for people below the poverty line would be paid up by the government. People above the poverty line would be linked to low-premium schemes which the government would negotiate on their behalf with the medical insurance companies. A number of members, including Ms Mufti and Ms Rekha Verma (BJP-Uttar Pradesh), asked the Minister to set up trauma centres in their states as their economies are much geared to the highways where accidents are frequent. The government’s decision to set up All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in all the states came up for discussion. Dr Harsh Vardhan said he has already initiated measures with a number of state governments.
Mrs P.K. Sreemathi Teacher (CPI-M), a former health minister of Kerala, suggested that several successes in the health sector of her state be examined for emulation. These included the setting up of cadres for specialist doctors and health administrators. Despite meeting with initial objections, the Kerala government had succeeded in making compulsory rural postings for graduate doctors. Dr P. Venugopal (AIADMK) highlighted the notable successes of Tamil Nadu in ensuring universal health coverage. The state has concentrated on manpower and human resources and established the Medical Service Recruitment Board. He suggested that this be emulated by other states. Dr Prabhakar Kore, (BJP-Rajya Sabha) highlighted the serious human resource deficit faced by the health sector. He wanted the entire medical education system reviewed.
Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey appreciated Dr Harsh Vardhan’s decision to impose a zero tolerance regime towards corruption and inefficiency. He also appreciated the visit of the Health Minister to the AES affected areas of Bihar for the AES/JE campaign. The importance of Ayush in the government’s health policy was underscored by the Minister. Recently the Prime Minister has approved the Ayush Mission to address the critical gaps in medical services. The first World Ayurveda Conference under the government’s aegis is being organised in Delhi between November 6 and 9. The Parliamentarians present during the meeting included Ms Mehbooba Mufti, Mrs P.K. Sreemathi Teacher, Dr P. Venugopal, Dr Prabhakar Kore, Mr Ashwini Kumar Choubey, Sh Kanwar Singh Tanwar, Smt Rekha Verma, Sh Dharmendra Kumar, Sh Vinod Kumar, Sh Chand Nath and Sh Prasanna Kumar Patasani. Also present were Health Secretary Sh Lov Verma, Sh Nilanjan Sanyal, Secretary AYUSH, Dr Jagdish Prasad, DGHS, Sh R K Jain, DG, CGHS and other senior officers of the Ministry.