Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Sunday said the Union government’s flagship programme the Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres cannot be converted to any other scheme by state governments.
Earlier, the Union Health Ministry had said the Punjab government was converting Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centres (AB-HWC) into ‘Mohalla Clinics’, a pet project of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, and had warned of stopping the funds for the scheme.
The AB-HWC is formulated with a 60:40 contribution ratio by the Centre and the state.
Mandaviya was on a visit to Patiala on Sunday during which he made a surprise visit to review the security arrangements at a NEET-PG exam centre in the city. He also interacted with the candidates’ parents there.
This is the first time that the Union Health minister has visited a National Board of Examinations in Medical Sciences (NBEMS) exam centre during an examination, a Health Ministry statement said.
“Visited NEET-PG exam centre in Patiala, Punjab, and took stock of the arrangements," Mandaviya said in a tweet in Hindi.
Mandaviya also paid obeisance at the Shri Kali Devi Mandir and Gurudwara Shri Dukhniwaran Sahib in Patiala.
Interacting with reporters later, Mandaviya clarified that the Centre has released the National Health Mission (NHM) grant only for Health and Wellness Centres and that this scheme cannot be converted by the state government.
He said a state may close the scheme but it cannot convert it.
Mandaviya said state governments can promote any model of health on their own, but the central grant cannot be spent on any other state scheme.
“Health and Wellness Centres scheme cannot be converted. If any state does not want to adopt it, it can stop it, that is one issue. But it cannot be converted," he stressed.
“…Issue was only this much that it should not be converted and today I was told that they (Punjab government) will run the Health and Wellness Centres," the Union Health Minister said.
“We believe in cooperative federalism. We are helping all state governments in every way, it does not matter which party rules which state.
“I have said health and wellness centres should be run and if they are run, naturally our grant will continue…Health should not be an issue of politics, it is connected with citizens," he said.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh said a detailed discussion related to the state’s health sector was held with Mandaviya.
He claimed that the Union minister “appreciated the holistic healthcare model which the AAP is implementing in Punjab".
“He (Mandaviya) had a couple of concerns pertaining to co-branding (related to the wellness centres issue) which we addressed. He gave assurance that funds will be released immediately," Singh said.
Mandaviya said critical care units will be granted for all districts in the state, and a proposal will be sent by the state to the Centre in this regard, he said.
Last month, the Punjab Health Minister had said under the National Health Mission, out of Rs 1,114 crore — the Centre was to disburse to Punjab in a 60:40 ratio — only Rs 438 was received from it as against Rs 668 crore.
The state government, which was to spend Rs 445 crore, spent Rs 618 crore, he had said.
Singh had alleged that when the Centre “could not find anything” with the ‘Aam Aadmi clinics’, it started questioning its branding.
Mandaviya, during his visit to Patiala on Saturday, also reviewed the healthcare services and infrastructure in Rajindra Hospital, a government facility, in the city.
He inspected the hospital’s facilities and held discussions with the hospital administration and medical staff to gain insights into the healthcare challenges and needs of the region.
Balbir Singh submitted a detailed memorandum of demands regarding the upgradation of health services and infrastructure in Punjab.
The two ministers held discussions on ways to improve the quality of healthcare and access in Punjab. The Union minister’s visit to Patiala is a part of the government’s efforts to assess and improve healthcare facilities across the country, an official statement said.
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