Two government health care centres, one each in Namakkal and Sholingur (Vellore district), have become the first in South India to receive the National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Health Care Providers (NABH) certification.

P. Elango of Namakkal and Narasimhan from Sholingur, representatives of the hospitals, received the certificate from Giridhar Gyani, Quality Council of India Secretary-General, at the inaugural function of the International Conference on Health Systems Strengthening (ICONHSS) here on Friday.

Only around 45 hospitals in the country have been given the accreditation so far, most of them in the private sector. Besides Sholingur and Namakkal, ten more government hospitals in the State are in the process of getting accreditation, State Health Minister M.R.K. Panneerselvam said.

The process started two years ago, when the Tamil Nadu Health Systems Project (TNHSP) identified 12 hospitals in the State for the NABH accreditation. Several structural and process improvements were done based on the standards given by the Quality Council of India. These included accessibility of services, continuous quality improvement, facility management, patient safety and information management system.

S. Vijayakumar, Project Director, TNHSP, said, “An overall strengthening of systems is necessary for the high standards that the Quality Council of India wants to maintain. Now that the two hospitals have qualified we are hopeful that a few more will join this list.”

A sum of Rs.600 crore had been cleared by the World Bank to support the TNHSP. Already, Rs.524 crore had been utilised over the last five years, Principal Secretary, Health, V.K. Subburaj, said. With this funding, infrastructure facilities had been improved in all secondary care hospitals in the State.

Finance Minister K. Anbazhagan earlier presented awards to Chettinad Health City and lifetime achievement awards to Sujatha Rao, Union Health Secretary, and P. Padmanabhan, Advisor, National Health Systems Resource Centre.

Erin Soto, Minister – Counselor for International Development, USAID, said Tamil Nadu had prioritised strengthening health systems, and could be proud about positive trend in the health of people.

Health budgets had increased 35 per cent in the last few years, she said, leading to significant achievements in the health sector.

However, the progress had not been uniform across the country. While the experience of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Gujarat could be showcased, the pace of change was different in other States. The country would have to consider the human resource shortage, ensure operational accountability and engage the private sector, she added.

The Union Health Secretary said though budgetary allocation for health care had improved over the years, it was not on a par with international standards. It was just about 1.1 per cent of the GDP, a rise from 0.9 per cent in 2004. While questions were being raised about funding health care – single or multiple providers – the role of insurance in financing health care was certain.

Sayeeda Hameed, Member, Union Planning Commission, said in relation to the 10th Five Year Plan, health care allocation had improved manifold.

Tamil Nadu's models in areas such as drug procurement and distribution, creation of a specialised public health cadre and vibrant partnerships between the public and private systems should be emulated across the country.