Govt Starts Work on Free Medicine Distribution at Public Hospitals
BEST REMEDY Project to cost 28, 580 cr in 12th plan; minister to revive central council of health
The government will soon start work on distributing free medicines through public hospitals across the country, health minister Harsh Vardhan said on Friday, reviving a plan that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had promised in his Independence Day speech in 2012 but did not implement due to apparent lack of resources. Vardhan plans to revive the central council of health (CCH), a body that comprises health ministers of all states in the country as well as experts, to take the discussion forward on firming up the model to implement the programme. The minister decided this in a meeting that he had held with senior health ministry officials on the previous day. “I am sure my colleague health ministers in the states are keen to ensure the success of this programme,” Vardhan said, adding that despite the Cabinet’s formal nod in May 2013, the implementation of the programme remained restricted to a few hospitals in big cities because the infrastructure for procurement and distribution was not put in place. Health economists have lauded the new government’s move to prioritise the programme. “The plan has been in the making for the last three years. If implemented effectively, it will significantly reduce out-of-pocket expenditure in the country. The Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan model should be replicated in the other states,” said public health expert Sakthivel Selvaraj. According to Planning Commission’s estimates, a countrywide free generic drug programme will cost .` 28,560 crore during the 12th five- approvals, the programme was restricted to a few hospitals in big cities till now lakh sub-centres community health centres primary health centres district hospitals VEHICLES TO IMPLEMENT THE PLAN: National Rural Health Mission & National Urban Health Mission year plan period. The Centre will bear 75% of the cost while the states will chip in with the rest. Under the original plan, 348 drugs listed in the National List of Essential Medicines were to be provided free at 1.6 lakh sub-centres, 23,000 primary health centres, 5,000 community health centres and 640 district hospitals.
Vardhan said on Friday that standard treatment protocols would be developed in consultation with experts to check irrational administration of drugs. The “Delhi Model” of first discerning the essential from the fluff, which Vardhan oversaw as health minister of Delhi between 1993 and 1998 may be referred to while giving final shape to the national programme. The National Health Mission (NHM)’s two sub-missions – the flagship programme of the previous Congress-led UPA government’s National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) – will serve as vehicles for implementation of the programme. “The NHM will be heavily e-governed to ensure minimum slippage and zero corruption. The despair faced by poor and the middle-class families when a member falls ill would become a thing of the past,” Vardhan said. The NRHM has been bogged down in unforeseen problems while the NUHM is a non-starter, he added. The minister also referred to institutionalisation of Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHA) workers as one of his top priorities. These activists are yet to get fixed wages and there are many impediments to their smooth functioning, he said, announcing his plans to hold a meeting with ASHA workers to understand their problems at first hand.