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Promote indigenous manufacturing of medical equipment to make treatment affordable for all: Naidu

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New Delhi, Dec 7 (PTI) Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu Friday stressed the need to promote indigenous manufacturing of medical equipment to overcome a "paradoxical" situation in the health sector where a range of treatments are available for foreigners but are out of reach for many local people. Addressing the 46th annual convocation of AIIMS, he said it is estimated that the out-of-pocket expenditure constitutes more than 60 per cent of all health expenses, a major drawback in a country like India where a large segment of the population is poor. Approximately 63 million people fall into poverty each year due to lack of financial protection for their health-care needs. "We have a paradoxical situation when it comes to health sector. On the one hand, India is making rapid strides in medical tourism with people from other countries coming to our country for a range of treatments -- from liver transplant to knee replacement. However, the same treatment is out of reach for many Indians. "We need to overcome this paradoxical situation by ensuring that treatment is affordable for all Indians," Naidu said. He said an important step in this direction will be to promote manufacturing of state-of-the-art devices and equipment in the country, particularly under the 'Make in India' programme. "Such a move will not only save precious foreign exchange for us but also bring down the cost of the devices," the vice president said. Naidu also said that with a majority of the population, particularly from poor and lower-middle classes, meeting most of the health expenditure on their own, the government has launched 'Ayushman Bharat Yojana' to cover more than 10 crore vulnerable families by providing a coverage of up to Rs 5 lakh per family annually. This will be a game-changer in terms of accessing health-care services in India, he said. Expressing concern over the absence of qualified medical practitioners in rural areas which is making people there to go to quacks, Naidu said there was a need to increase the number of doctors available at health care centres in rural area and incentivize rural doctors. The vice president pointed out that there was a significant urban-rural divide in the health sector. Citing a report, he said, "India has only 1.1 beds per 1000 population compared to the world average of 2.7. Seventy per cent of India's health care infrastructure is in the top 20 cities." "We have to bridge this urban-rural divide in providing state-of-the-art health care services. The highest priority has to be accorded to strengthening primary health care and tertiary care." A major challenge that we have to overcome is the need to provide quality health care at all levels, he said. Naidu said India is faced with double burden of disease. "On the one hand, we are still grappling with dengue, swine flu, chikangunya, malaria and HIV. On the other hand, non-communicable diseases are taking a heavy toll, he said. Cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes are contributing to a substantial chunk of the total deaths in India. "Not only in terms of expanded access to medical education but also in terms of quality, much more needs to be done," Naidu said. "India has achieved significant economic growth over the past decades, but the progress in health has not been commensurate. Despite notable gains in improving life expectancy, reducing fertility, maternal and child mortality, and addressing other health priorities, the rate of improvement have been insufficient, falling short on several national and global targets," he said. Nadda, also awarded degrees to 671 graduating students. Congratulating the graduating students, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said ensuring the highest standards of medical education is the top priority for the government. Mentioning the several initiatives taken by his ministry to improve medical education in the country, he said the government has increased the age of retirement of doctors to 65 years and is setting up of more medical and nursing schools, and making efforts in multi-skilling of doctors to overcome the shortage of specialists. The Union health minister said that the Phase-I of National Cancer Institute (NCI), hospital and residential complex at Jhajjar AIIMS with project value of about Rs 2,035 crore shall be made functional by next month. He said since the launch of Ayushman Bharat Jan Arogya Yojna, more than 4.5 lakh people have already availed of benefits of the scheme, which is touted as the world's largest government-funded healthcare programme. The AIIMS has been making multifaceted contributions with distinctions, by training hundreds of graduates, postgraduate, in-service trainee doctors and nurses; research in priority areas and support to the national programs and other organizations and institutions, Nadda said. PTI PLB NSD

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