With Narendra Modi Government taking some major policy decisions in 2018, it turned out to be a landmark year for the strengthening and improvisation of Indian healthcare delivery system, writes Mukul Kumar Mishra of Elets News Network (ENN).
From implementation of Ayushman Bharat to revamp of MBBS curriculum and restructuring of MCI, the year witnessed many developments in the area of healthcare infrastructure which will ultimately play a crucial role in enhancing patient care.
On one hand, the Government was applauded for many good initiatives this year, on the other, it also had to face flak over handling of J&J hip implant fiasco and outbreak of Nipah, and Zika virus cases. The year also saw acquisitions news including Fortis-IHH deal, landmark discoveries by scientists and introduction of many innovative health-tech solutions by private healthcare service providers.
Making a big stride in the direction of Universal Health Coverage, the Government announced one of the biggest Government-funded healthcare schemes of the world, Ayushman Bharat- Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY) while presenting Union Budget 2018-19 in Parliament in February.
‘Modicare’ aims to cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, and the formation of nearly 1.5 lakh health and wellness centres by 2022 to provide comprehensive and quality primary healthcare. The scheme was launched by Prime Minister Modi.
In another development, the Union Health Minister for Health and Family Welfare J P Nadda launched a viral load test to diagnose acute HIV infection benefitting 12 lakh HIV/AIDS patients who are on treatment. The month also saw Uttar Pradesh Government collaborating with National Health Mission (NHM) to set up CT scan units across 28 district hospitals of the State.
In March, acquisition of Fortis healthcare by Manipal was the biggest highlight. Another development which hit headlines was the US scientists discovering a new organ in human beings named as ‘Interstitium’.
The Health Ministry took decision to reduce the cut-off percentile for National Eligibility cum Entrance Test PG and NEET Super Speciality exams benefitting around 18,000 medical aspirants in April. The Nayati Healthcare acquired majority stake (51 percent) in PrimaMed as well as Prima-Med Vimhans.
In May, the Government took decision stating that Caesarean deliveries in private hospitals under the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPM) will only be allowed after the patient is referred from a government hospital specifying reasons.
In another development, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted the resolution initiated by India on digital health. The Delhi Government making a proposal to cap prices for all drugs and consumables, Nipah virus outbreak in Kerala and acquisition of Fitness First by Cure.fit were top highlights of the month.
In June, an MoU was signed between the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) to scale up the short term healthcare courses, benefitting 14 lakh professionals. In another development, the Odisha Government announced to set up 20 hospitals through the public-private partnership (PPP).
HealthPlix raising $3 million in Series A round funding, Cure.fit receiving 120 million funding in Series C round and TPG Capital acquiring a minority stake in Hyderabad-based Sai Life Sciences, were top highlights in the month of July.
In August, the Union Health Ministry issuing an advisory asking all States and Union Territories to ban e-cigarettes was top news. Other highlights of the month were Delhi-based startup myUpchar raising $ 5 mn funding, scientists identifying universal influenza vaccine and Uttar Pradesh getting the largest quaternary care hospital in ApolloMedics Super Speciality Hospital.
The Government constituting a board of governors to run the Medical Council of India (MCI), launching of Ayushman Bharat scheme from Jharkhand, and doubling of incentives of ASHA, Anganwadi workers were among biggest news in September.
The month also saw the Health ministry notifying the enforcement of the HIV and AIDS (Prevention and Control) Act, 2017 that aims to end the epidemic by 2030 and safeguard the rights of people living with or affected by HIV by addressing HIV-related discrimination through legal accountability and establishing mechanisms for complaint enquiry and grievance redressal.
In October, it was reported that traces of Polio Virus Type 2 were found in some batches of oral polio vaccine. The Union Health Ministry ordered immediate withdrawal of the particular manufacturer’s vaccine and also initiated measures to control the situation. Other development was the Government’s announcement about establishing electronic healthcare database system across all districts of the country.
The Medical Council of India (MCI) finalising the new MBBS curriculum after a gap of 21 years was biggest news in November. New curriculum includes modules on ethics and communication and will be followed from the 2019-20 academic session. Other highlights were outbreak of Zika virus across States like Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and faulty J&J hip implant which put the Health Ministry on the dock.
December saw the Union Cabinet approving Allied and Healthcare Professions Bill, 2018 in order to regulate and standardise the education and services provided by professionals in the healthcare sector. Another major development was clearance of the Surrogacy Bill by Lok Sabha. It regulates surrogacy in India by prohibiting its commercialisation and allows only close relatives to act as surrogates to needy infertile couples for “altruistic” reasons.