Cardiology treatments offered under the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY) declined 45% ; ‘General Surgeries’ plummeted 23% and procedures related to gynaecology and obstetrics nosedived 25% from February to April, according to data from the official National Health Authority viewed by The Hindu .
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The only category of treatment that showed an increase, and in fact accounted for the largest number of treatments and procedures offered overall was ‘General Medicine’. In February, there were 54,179 procedures offered under this category and that increased to 65,336 in March and a further 68,519 in April, the data show.
There were 1,98,734 treatments offered under various AB-PMJAY packages in January, which slightly dipped to 1,93,679 in February; 1,88,116 in March and 1,51,672 in April. In the first month after lockdown, March 24 - April 24, 1,59,755 treatments were offered.
The AB-PMJAY, according to the Centre, offers health insurance to 10.74 crore poor, rural families and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families. The project offers an annual health cover of ₹5,00,000 per family (on a family floater basis). It covers medical and hospitalisation expenses for several secondary care and tertiary care procedures. The government-backed programme has defined 1,350 medical packages covering surgery, medical and day care treatments, including medicines and transport.
The treatments available for the poor can be accessed at several private care hospitals and therefore services accessed are a pointer to the health services available. With the lockdown, private hospitals across the country largely shut down with the government itself encouraging people with ‘non-critical’ illness to access hospitals via telemedicine or only partake of essential treatments (dialysis or non-elective surgeries) at hospitals. The idea was to keep hospitals — public and private — ready for a surge in COVID-19 patients as had been experienced in several European countries and the United States. However with several reports of COVID-19 infections in healthcare workers and doctors across private and public hospitals, the number of visits to hospitals in general saw a decline, as evidenced by the PMJAY data.
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Indu Bhushan, CEO, AB-PMJAY, told The Hindu that the decline in treatment availed was a combination of people being “afraid” to go to hospitals. “People are hesitant and afraid to go to hospitals. However, General Medicine [that has shown an increase] could be because it covers a range of conditions from fever, respiratory illness and even COVID-19. I expect an increase in demand for other services in about two weeks.”
In April, the Supreme Court ordered that those eligible under PM-JAY, and satisfied the government criteria to test themselves for COVID-19 could avail free testing at private laboratories.