India’s public spending on healthcare may be just 2% of its gross domestic product (GDP) and way below the level in advanced economies, but that doesn’t present a true comparative picture, as healthcare in the developed world is mush costlier, health and family welfare minister Mansukh Mandaviya said on Friday.
“Every country has its model of public health, India has a unique one,” he said. The minister was speaking at the second edition of the FE Healthcare Summit here.
According to the World Bank data, India’s general government health expenditure (per capita, in purchasing power parity terms) stood at just $69.2 in 2019, way below the global average of $865.7. In China, such spending was to the tune of $492.7.
The government is currently focussing on creating a futuristic health-care model, drawing from its experience of dealing with the pandemic and massive vaccination drive, the minister said. This new model would ensure that the poor and the vulnerable get access to affordable healthcare, he added.
He said countries follow different models for providing healthcare to their citizens, based on available infrastructure and specific needs. “We can learn many aspects of healthcare from other countries, but we have to rely on our inherent strength, keeping in mind our population profile,” Mandaviya noted.
The Modi government, the minister said, initiated several measures to improve the state of healthcare in the country. It has introduced the Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana and increased the number of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) as well as the Ayushman Bharat health and wellness centres. The number of seats for the MBBS course has been expanded significantly by setting up more medical colleges. Currently, there are around 1,00,000 MBBS seats across 650 medical colleges in the country.
“At present 100 million families or around 500 million people are taking benefit of Ayushman Bharat, through availing treatment at private hospitals,” Mandaviya said.
The minister also stated that several medicines, including those for cancer treatment, are being made available at a highly reasonable rate through as many as 8,600 Janaushadhi Kendras. The government is also focussing on setting up around 10,000 Janaushadhi Kendras in the next couple of years.
On the government’s Nikshay Mitra initiative, which is aimed at encouraging the adoption of TB patients and taking care of their nutritional needs, Mandaviya said that 9,00,000 TB patients have been adopted by private individuals and institutions. Currently, there are around 1.3 million TB patients in the country.
“Our policy on healthcare is based on a long-term vision, not for short-term electoral gains,” he said. For tackling a healthcare emergency, there are 28,000 ambulances on call available across the country.