New Delhi: Noting that there is a "high variance" in the quality of service available in public and private sector hospitals, President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said the country's healthcare system should be developed to meet medical requirements of all sections.

He said good health of its people is the very foundation of a nation as a person who is not healthy is unable to access opportunities for learning, growth and productive work.

In India, a number of rights are guaranteed to its citizens but none of these can be utilised or enforced by persons who are sick, enfeebled and spend their entire energy on treatment and medical care, the President said.

Observing that delivery of health services in India is by both the public sector and private sector, he said, "There is a high variance in the quality of service available as well."

"Some private hospitals provide world class facilities, so much so that people from third countries come here for treatment giving impetus to medical tourism.

"On the other hand, is the lack of access to even basic medical care for many people particularly the poor and disadvantaged. Our medical healthcare system has to be developed to cater to medical requirements of all sections of society, both in rural and urban areas," he said inaugurating 6th FICCI HEAL 2012 annual international conference here.

At the national level, according to a WHO study, the estimated economic loss for India due to deaths caused by all diseases in 2005 was 1.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product.

"With an increase in the number of non-communicable diseases, this loss is apprehended to increase to 5 percent of GDP by 2015 if it is not checked.

"Therefore, a healthcare coverage that assures access to medicines and treatment at affordable prices is an objective, essential for the full utilisation of the human resource capacity and one to which India is committed to achieve. The task is-how to make this a reality,?" he said during his first public function after becoming President.

Mukherjee was sworn in as 13th President on July 25.

Mukherjee emphasised that merely constructing hospitals was not enough. "Human resources were required to make them functional and effective. There was a need to augment medical colleges, nursing institutions, and training schools for paramedical professionals".

"The transformation of India's health system to be able to provide universal health coverage is a process that will span a period of time," he said.

Citing National Rural Health Mission, launched in 2005, as the major re-engineering process to extend healthcare services to every village in the country and to strengthen healthcare infrastructure, Mukherjee said, "The aim now is to extend the coverage to urban areas also.

"There should be necessary standards of care observed at every level of healthcare. A network of healthcare centres has to be established," he said.
Mukherjee said it can be sustained only with adequate number of doctors and other paramedical supporting staff.

"Shortage of trained medical personnel can be a major constraint for providing universal healthcare," the President said.

Highlighting that medicines account for 72 percent of private expenditure of health in the country, Mukherjee said that technology-based initiatives including telemedicine could be employed to broaden the reach of healthcare.

"This will bring down out-of-pocket expenditure and provide affordable access to medicine, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. Implementing this requires funds as also efficient management systems.

"State Government of Tamil Nadu has developed a successful model using an IT enabled management system. In today's era technology based initiatives including telemedicine can be employed to broaden the reach of healthcare," the President said.

Mukherjee said there was a need to strengthen public health care sector with the cooperation between public and private sector.

"Government, singularly, cannot be a provider of healthcare. While the aim is to strengthen the public healthcare sector, we should look at ways to encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors in achieving the health goals. All stakeholders have to be a part of the effort to provide universal healthcare," he said.

From the pharmacists to the doctors, from industry to drug manufacturers, from medical insurance to management of hospitals and running of primary health centres, all have a role in the success of the health system.

The potential of India as centre for medical research and innovation given its academic, scientific, technical and industrial capabilities should be fully explored, he said.

Mukherjee said there was a need to look at health coverage only in terms of curative and interventionist approach. "Preventive healthcare is equally important particularly in India where the number of those suffering from diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases is on the rise," he said.

He said that health system, therefore, will need to treat people and, at the same time, advise and guide them about how to deal with and prevent some of these medical conditions.

"In these efforts, participation at the local level particularly at the village level through Panchayati Raj Institutions can ensure effective implementation," he added.


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