The COVID-19 pandemic has given a chance to revisit and structurally re-imagine a robust public health infrastructure for the country, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the two-day Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Public Health Conference virtually, Vardhan expressed hope that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's goal of a tuberculosis-free India by 2025 would be achieved with the help of industry leaders and the CII.
A virtual exhibition on Healthcare and the 'CII TB Free Workplaces Campaign' was launched and the 'CII Public Health Report' was also released at the event which was virtually attended by Vardhan, Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey and Member (Health) NITI Aayog Dr. Vinod K. Paul, among others.
"This pandemic has given us a chance to revisit and structurally re-imagine a robust public health infrastructure for our country," Vardhan was quoted as saying by a statement.
Citing India's successful approach in containing and curing this novel health risk, he lauded the country's capacity to turn government schemes into a broader social movement that saw "the complete eradication of small-pox and polio from a time when India contributed 60 per cent of the global cases of polio".
Recalling his experience as the health minister of Delhi when he organised a campaign to eradicate polio with meagre funds but with the full backing and enthusiasm of prominent leaders of the industry, Vardhan said he has been witnessing "the same enthusiasm and commitment in eradicating tuberculosis bacilli from the country".
On the TB Free Workplaces campaign, Vardhan said, "India with nearly 26.4 lakh Tuberculosis cases continues to have the largest share of the global TB burden".
"The economic burden of TB is huge in terms of lives, money and workdays lost as it disproportionately affects the poor who live in unsanitary conditions and are deprived of calories," Vardhan said.
He also deliberated on the government's response to this problem by pointing out that "resource allocation for TB in India has witnessed a fourfold increase in the last five years".
"The prime minister had initiated a big survey for detection of TB cases upon taking office in 2014 itself," he noted.
Every patient of TB and even those with multi-drug resistant TB are treated free as the entire cost is borne by the government while doctors are incentivised to report TB cases, he added.
The health minister expressed confidence that the government's boost to health infrastructure through the Ayushman Bharat scheme would similarly eradicate diseases like kala-azar and leprosy and push the Maternal Mortality Rate to near zero.
In his remarks, Choubey said the Prime Minister's efforts to provide medical care at the grassroots have ushered in "a revolutionary expansion of health infrastructure in the rural areas".
"The intensive use of Telemedicine is clearly evident from the 1.5 lakh consultations already recorded on the e Sanjeevani tele-consultation platform," he said.
Dr Randeep Guleria, Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, in his capacity as Chairman CII Public Health Council and Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) were also digitally present on the occasion.