National Health Authority (NHA) - the agency that administers the Centre's flagship health assurance scheme Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) - is on an enrolment drive to get more hospitals on board to treat the poor and vulnerable of India. Over 1,000 hospitals have been added to the list of facilities that offer treatments under AB-PMJAY in the last two months.
The move comes in the backdrop of steady increase in COVID cases and the need for more healthcare facilities that can offer treatment to both COVID and non-COVID patients who are among the 50 crore beneficiaries of AB-PMJAY. "We have embarked on a drive to have more hospitals on board, for treatment of COVID and non-COVID cases. Most importantly we need more hospitals for non-COVID patients. From April 1, we have empanelled more than 1,000 hospitals so now we have close to 22,000 hospitals", Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO, NHA, says.
Dr Bhushan also said the authority has launched an express way to empanel hospitals to get them quickly on board. The revised norms under the express route enables even those hospitals that do not fully comply with NHA's normal eligibility criteria to get empanelled for the programme. "We are taking them on board temporarily for three months, so that we can expand the quality and access to services", Bhushan says.
The NHA chief however adds that the fast track selection does not mean compromise on quality of services. "We have been de-empanelling based on fraud and abuse and we still maintain zero tolerance of fraud and abuse, and we are not empanelling such hospitals. The relaxation is on other parameters. For instance, we have minimum criteria for number of beds, we have criteria for minimum infrastructure, minimum sq meters space; etc, these are the parameters than can be waived off", he explains. NHA had empanelled over 18,000 hospitals in its first year of operations. Ever since, in the last 8 months, it has added another 4,000, of which 1,000 happened in almost two months.
Bhushan says the new additions are mostly from Tier II and Tier III cities of the country. "We don't have any data base where we can say how many hospitals are out there for us to tap. But we believe that by the end of this year 2020, we should be around 25,000 hospitals", he said. "We have launched a module called HEM lite, which requires smaller amount of information, so that even if the hospitals do not have all the certificates, they do not take too much time to fill out those information. Also we have shortened the empanelment process", Bhushan said.