Stating that his government had proposed and approved more branches of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the past four years than previous governments have done since Independence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated the Centre’s commitment to providing affordable healthcare to the poor in every corner of the country.
The PM was speaking at the inauguration of a kilometre-long motorable tunnel at AIIMS, Friday. The tunnel connects the main campus to the trauma centre and facilitates easy transfer of patients, relatives, doctors and medicines.
He also laid the foundation stone of the National Centre for Ageing at AIIMS, which will be built in a year-and-a-half at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore, and will provide multi-speciality healthcare to the elderly.
A 300-bed Powergrid Vishram Sadan was also inaugurated by him at AIIMS, apart from a 555-bed super-speciality block and a 500-bed emergency block at Safdarjung Hospital.
Modi also visited ailing former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who has been admitted at the hospital since June 11. This was the third time that he met the former PM.
Stressing on the need for affordable healthcare, Modi said the government’s target of providing free treatment for serious illness of up to Rs 5 lakh would become the “biggest health assurance scheme in the world”. “This isn’t just for the poor. It will create opportunity in the medical sector… create employment, infrastructure,” he said.
He added, “In the past four years, we have given a new direction to public healthcare. We are moving towards a situation where the poor and the middle class get better healthcare without spending more.”
He also listed the government’s achievements, ranging from new vaccines that had reduced infant mortality to working with state governments to bolstering medical facilities and providing essential medicines for free. “Since Independence, the number of AIIMS centres that have been proposed and created is less than what we have done in the past four years,” the PM added.
Modi said that there were two aspects to the union government’s drive: that existing hospitals in the country get better amenities and facilities, and health facilities are created in different corners of the country.
He also stressed on the need to have more doctors and medical professionals by improving medical education: “Hospitals are being upgraded to medical colleges — 23 new medical colleges will be created… the government eventually hopes to have one medical college for every three Lok Sabha seats.”
Pointing to the economic burden that illness can have on the poor, the Prime Minister said that the government is aiming to “take healthcare outside the health ministry” by involving different ministries such as water and sanitation, women and child, and AYUSH.
He added that the National Health Protection Scheme was a major step in this direction, and that the government was aiming to create one health and wellness centre for every panchayat across the country. “This will be a big gain for villages and kasbahs,” he said.
He further said that he had requested doctors to treat pregnant women free of cost at least once a month. “Now, 1.25 crore pregnant women have been treated free of cost so far,” he said.