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No Move to Hand Over Rural Health Centers to Private Players in Punjab: Minister

Even as the opposition parties in Punjab lashed out at the Congress Government’s alleged move to hand over education and health services to the private operators, the State Government on Monday clarified that there was no such move. The state Health and Family Welfare Minister Brahm Mohindra, taking cognizance of reports that the State Government has decided to hand over health institutions especially Primary Health Centers (PHCs) and Community Health Centers (CHCs) situated in rural areas to private parties in PPP mode, made it clear that there is no such move to hand over these institutions to private parties. He said that the intent of the present government is to strengthen the public health system. “Due to shortage of the specialists and because of various reasons, the State Governments across India are not able to attract adequate number of specialists. The Department has been getting requests from doctors, NGOs and others for giving them an opportunity to provide services in the government health institutions. Three offers are already under consideration — one each from cardiologist for SBS Nagar and Patiala, and one for providing service in Community Health Center in Ludhiana,” he said. Mohindra said that the Central Government has also issued guidelines for co-locating private players for treatment of diseases in the government institutions.

“They can be engaged for a particular service for government hospitals. Center is also prepared to extend financial help in this regard. The Health Department is attempting to formulate a policy after hearing all the stakeholders,” he added. The Minister said that it was in this context that an advertisement was given in the newspapers inviting expression of interest from the private NGOs, doctors or others for providing services in the Government Hospitals and running of health institutions situated in difficult areas. “Inviting expression of interest is to get ideas on how the government can provide all healthcare services even in remote areas where we have dearth of manpower, that is doctors and para-medics,” he said. He added that if at all, it happens, “by no means shall there be any extra financial burden on the patients, that is existing government hospital rates shall be charged from them. Based on response, a pilot in one-two institutions will be tried”. Mohindra also cited successful PPP mode projects in Health and Medical Education Department — Punjab Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) Jalandhar, two Max Hospitals at Mohali and Bathinda and one Indus Hospital in Village Pirjain (Fatehgarh Sahib). He appealed to the PCMS doctors that they should have no fear in this regard, the Department has been issuing the advertisements time to time for recruitment of specialists and doctors. Earlier, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has lashed out at the State Government for the alleged move.

Reacting on the Punjab government’s dictatorial decision, AAP MLA and the Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha dubbed it as an attempt to debar a vast majority of citizens of the country from the basic needs of the citizens provided to them under the Constitution. “The decision of government is a malicious attempt to promote private operators in the education and health sectors which would debar a teeming millions of Dalits, the poor and the under-privileged in the state,” he said. “If a government in the saddle could not provide its citizens with the basic right to education and affordable health services, it forfeited its right to be in the top slot,” he added. Referring to AAP Government’s Delhi model, Cheema said that Arvind Kejriwal-led Government had proved its mettle by delivering on its poll promises in terms of education, health, electricity, et al, and brought drastic changes in education, health and power sectors. Quoting a recent survey conducted by a private survey agency, Cheema said that if report was any pointers, it is disgraceful that as many as 1.5 lakh government schools have faced closure and many more were on the verge of closure owing to the ill-conceived policies of the previous governments in power. Condemning the utterly inhuman decision of the Congress government, SAD MLA and former minister Bikram Majithia said that the Congress Government was set to increase rural indebtedness and push more farmers into committing suicide by privatizing rural healthcare services.

“Congress government’s decision to wash its hands-off rural healthcare by handing over 426 primary health centers as well as 90 community centers and 14 urban community health centers to private players would have catastrophic results in both rural areas as well as among the urban poor. The move will wreck the rural economy as surveys have already disclosed that farmers have to take loans for access to private healthcare. Now with the entire rural healthcare moving into private hands, the burden on farmers is set to increase,” he said. Majithia said that the entire decision smelled of corruption and it seemed government buildings, equipment and furniture was being handed over to corporate players for ulterior reasons. “There is no justification for this exercise. In case the government hands over rural healthcare to private players, it will need to pay them more than the present budget of Rs 3600 crore for healthcare,” he said. Demanding a high-level inquiry into the entire issue, Majithia said that it seemed the Congress Government was working overtime to ensure profit to corporates by handing over healthcare services to them. Stating that the Congress government did not have any right to hand over public infrastructure to private players, Majitha said that SAD would launch an agitation to ensure this anti people move was not put into operation. – Daily Pioneer