The primary healthcare component of the national health protection scheme, Ayushman Bharat, seems to be moving at snail’s pace as the number of health and wellness centers (HWC) established so far is much below the target set by the government, the Indian Express reported. Till January 23, only 6,193 HWCs were functional since April 2018 when PM Narendra Modi inaugurated the first such center in Chhattisgarh. Out of the existing centers, over 2500 are concentrated only in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. All in all, total 10,000 centers are functional to some extent. However, that’s significantly falling short of 153,000 centers that the ministry targets by 2022. Last month, health minister JP Nadda in Lok Sabha said that 6 lakh people have benefitted under the scheme in just 100 days of its implementation. Under Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), remedial care and assistance is provided in more than 1350 deadly diseases, the minister said. A functional center would have a mid-level health provider/medical officer, trained frontline workers, free essential drugs and diagnostics, and screening for common non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The third progress review on HWCs will be held in the PMO on January 30.
“We are hopeful that by the end of this month, 9000 will be completed. By the end of the financial year, we will meet the target of 15,000 HWCs,” the Indian Express quoted a senior health ministry official as saying. 25,000 HWCs are targeted for next year, the official said. However, going by the current rate of setting up these centers, it might take over 10 years for the government to hit the target. Nonetheless, not all states have agreed to participate in the Ayushman Bharat scheme. Earlier this month West Bengal opted out of it as chief minister Mamta Banerjee accused the incumbent government of dirty politics through the healthcare scheme. In August last year, Delhi too had rejected to be a part of the initiative but agreed to implement it if the government could change the scheme’s name to Mukhya Mantri Aam Aadmi Swasthya Bima Yojana in Delhi. Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday in a Facebook post had called the exclusion very unfortunate. “It is very unfortunate that some states have chosen to opt out of the scheme for reasons of political expediency.” The government has also been criticized for setting aside only Rs 1200 crore to achieve the target even as Rs 800 crore has now been further approved. – Financial Express