Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India after inaugurating the GEM Hospital, in Chennai on December 03, 2018.

Chennai | December 3, 2018

“India has made significant strides in improving the health outcomes of the people with the availability of modern methods of treatment and better healthcare facilities. However, one of the biggest challenges in building a comprehensive healthcare system is the existence of huge disparity between urban and rural areas.

No doubt, healthcare has been accorded utmost priority by successive governments since Independence. But many challenges on this front continue to be formidable. They include low public spend, low doctor-patient ratio, low patient-bed ratio, rising out-of-pocket expenditure, dearth of medical colleges and trained doctors, inadequate infrastructure in rural areas, lack of penetration of health insurance and inadequate disease surveillance and and preventive mechanisms.

While the private sector is no doubt complementing the government’s efforts in providing healthcare facilities, I am aware that the focus of the corporate sector is mostly confined to urban areas. The time has come for the private sector to expand their facilities to the rural areas, where the majority of India’s population lives.

Public Private Partnership could be the model to bridge the gap by providing technically advanced primary and secondary healthcare centres that act as the first response units to combat diseases or general ill health. As regards healthcare, the rural-urban disparity is adding to the financial burden of the people.

Dear sisters and brothers,

Please remember that in India a doctor is revered and treated like a God. As professionals, you must always treat patients with empathy and provide them the much-needed human touch and healing touch.

These days, I find that the doctors are not spending the required time with the patients unlike in the past when the family physician used to do so. You need to provide comfort to those who come to you in times of distress.

While the advances in the medical field have made available modern methods of treatment, the need of the hour is to make such treatment accessible and affordable to the common man. There have been instances in which families have been driven to penury or burdened by debts because of the high costs of treatment.

In view of the low penetration of medical health insurance and an estimated 62.58 per cent of the people meeting medical and hospitalization expenses on their own, the Union Government has launched “Ayushman Bharat” to provide financial protection to 10.74 crore deprived rural families by offering a benefit cover of Rs. 5 lakh per family per year.

I am sure the Aayushman Bharat will be a boon to needy and poor families in the country and greatly improve the health outcomes, particularly in the rural areas. In addition, the establishment of 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres across the country aim to provide holistic healthcare.

An area of concern is the inadequate number of physicians available per 10,000 people in India when compared to developed countries. While the number of physicians available is 20 per 10,000 population in developed countries, it is only six in India.

As against the WHO norm of one doctor per 1,000, there is one doctor per 1700 population in India. In order to reach this target, a high-level committee of erstwhile Planning Commission (Now NITI Aayog) has recommended the setting up of 187 more medical colleges by 2022.

Dear Friends, the Constitution of India under Article 21 guarantees protection to life and personal liberty of every citizen including provisions guaranteeing everyone’s right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

As you all are aware, several State governments and Centre have time and again launched schemes to support the healthcare needs of our citizens. The Government of India has even set the target of increasing health expenditure to 2.5% of GDP by 2025 to fulfill the healthcare needs.

Encouraging low cost Generic Medicines and allocating adequate funds for research by medical institutions must become a priority. Here the private sector, particularly the large corporates must dedicate a portion of their profits for promoting medical research as part of their CSR activities.

Dear sisters and brothers, the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2016 data shows that Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and injuries are the main cause of death among people of all age groups in India.

With the NCDs becoming a major killer, it is incumbent upon the medical fraternity to launch a nationwide campaign to create greater awareness on the health hazards of modern-day lifestyles. Lack of physical activity, poor, unbalanced diets, abuse of tobacco and alcohol and environmental factors are among the factors leading to the development of NCDs.

All stakeholders - the government, private sector, the NGOs, public health planners and experts must come together in building a healthy, vibrant and resurgent India.