UN Sec Gen impressed with India’s public health efforts: Azad

CHANDIGARH, Apr 28: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, who is on a four-day visit to India, has appreciated the public health efforts of the country, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said here today.
“The UN Secretary General met me (in Delhi) on Thursday during his current visit to India and appreciated the public health efforts being put in by us,” Azad said in his address at the 32nd convocation of Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) here.
He said Ban during his hour-long meeting with the Health Ministry officials led by Azad stated that UN is now focusing on five specific goals—reducing malaria mortality, measles elimination, polio eradication, stoppage of mother to child HIV/AIDS transmission and tetanus eradication.
Later interacting with reporters here, Azad responding to a question said Ban’s upcoming meeting with the business leaders in the country was how to generate more funds not just for India but the entire globe to tackle the health-related issues.
He further said that Ban during his visit first choose to have discussions with him and his team before even meeting other dignitaries.
“This shows how concerned he is about health. He appreciated the steps taken by the Government of India in the health sector, which most countries have not taken”, he said.
On Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal recently raising with the Prime Minister the need to have a cancer institute for his state like the one set up by the Tatas in Mumbai, Azad said, his Ministry had proposed to the Planning Commission to have 10-12 “stand alone” cancer institutes like the one in Mumbai.
The minister said cancer was among the three diseases, including diabetes and heart ailments, which were fast spreading in many parts of the world, particularly in India.
“We have started a programme in 100 districts across the country that include two districts in Malwa region of Punjab and in Bathinda where we will screen the patients for these diseases”, he said.
“We want to screen patients across the country over the next six years for these three diseases, but at the moment the problem we are faced with is not of funds but lack of adequate number of doctors, technicians and other staff”, he said.
“As the process may take time, we have asked the major hospitals and medical colleges around the country to upgrade infrastructure, put more doctors and other equipment for treating cancer patients and the Centre will lend all help in this”, he said.
Delivering his convocation address, Azad said though India has made substantial progress in building the health infrastructure and improving its health indicators over time, the progress achieved has not been uniform across all the states.
“There are notable differences in the health parameters between males and females, across urban and rural areas and amongst different sections of society”, he said and talked about a number of initiatives taken with a view to provide accessible, equitable and affordable health care services to the people, including under the NRHM.
He said the success has made the Centre extend the NRHM for a further period of five years during the 12th five-year- plan and also for introducing a National Urban Health Mission.
The Health Minister further said that during the last two years, 46 new medical colleges have been established raising the number from 289 to 335 at present.
The number of MBBS seats has gone up from 32,892 to 41,569, an increase of 8,677 seats.
“The number of Post Graduate seats has also increased from 13,000 to 22,194, an increase of over 9,000 seats in just three years. Never before in the history of independent India has there been an increase of 80 per cent seats in PG courses in such a short time”, he said.
His Ministry has also sanctioned a National Institute of Paramedical Sciences at Delhi and eight Regional Institutes of Excellence at Chandigarh, Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Bhubaneswar, Patna and Aurangabad.
“Despite this, there remains a huge gap between demand and supply of infrastructure and human resources, particularly in backward remote and inaccessible rural areas”, he said and urged the young medicos to take up assignments in the rural areas for some years to begin with.
Azad also urged those who got degrees hailing from south and western parts of the country to take up assignments in North, North-Eastern and Central regions where health indicators, including MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), are very poor.
Touching upon the role played by PGIMER over the years, Azad who is also the president of the premier institute, said it has been able to fulfil the role alloted to it particularly in providing high quality patient care to the poor people living in difficult to access hill states and other states of the northern region.
Azad also made a mention of shortage of human resources in the health sector, saying “this shortage is a factor in institutes like PGIMER and AIIMS in Delhi suffering from an internal brain drain of late, where faculty members are moving across to the private sector in search of better working conditions”. (PTI)