‘4 crore people plunge into poverty each year due to expenses on medical treatment’

Concerned over people plunging into poverty every year due to rising out-of-the-pocket medical expenses, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said there is an immediate need to bring in a national quality health care system for the poor and rich alike.

Speaking at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) 40th Annual Convocation here, the President noted: “I am shocked to note that as many as four crore people of our country plunge into poverty each year due to expenses on medical treatment. We have to remember that the health services for the poor cannot be poor health services. We need to craft a high quality national health system that is used by the poor and the rich alike. The public health system must be greatly expanded and strengthened across the nation.”

The President also underlined the need for more nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers and decentralise planning and implementation of healthcare facilities to ensure that health benefits reach one and all in the country.

The Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was present on the occasion, said AIIMS was initially conceived and founded to produce faculty, undertake research and serve as a referral institute. “But over a period of time, it has become overburdened with patient care. For this reason the Ministry has opened six new AIIMS like hospitals to strengthen the health care delivery system in the government sector,” he added.

He noted that to overcome the shortage of faculty in medical colleges the ceiling on age limit has been raised from 60 to 70 years.

The Minister added that for encouraging posting of doctors in rural areas the Ministry has brought in a programme to provide additional marks to be awarded in post graduate entrance examination at the rate of 10 per cent for each year of rural service subject to a maximum of 30 per cent. “Also 50 per cent seats in post-graduate diploma courses have been reserved for medical officers in government services who have served for at least three years in remote and difficult areas,” said the Minister.

Mr. Azad called upon all those receiving degrees on Tuesday to join the national effort and take the lead in extending the fruits of scientific advancements to the poorest households in the remotest regions of the country.

Giving details of the number of medical professional trained at the Institute, AIIMS director Dr. R. C. Deka said: “Today we have awarded 465 degrees and till date the Institute has produced 5,022 specialists, 1,259 super specialists, 2,596 medical graduates, 2,481 nurses and several paramedical professionals.”

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