As part of the annual GPAI Summit, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) is organising the AI Game Changers Award.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the government’s healthcare approach focused on reducing foreign dependence for medicines, vaccines and medical devices and thereby making medical treatment affordable for all sections of people.
He was addressing a post-Budget Webinar on Health and Medical Research, the ninth in a series of 12 post-Budget webinars organised by the government to seek ideas and suggestions for effectively implementing initiatives announced in the Union Budget 2023-24.
Modi said the Covid-19 pandemic had taught many lessons to the world and under its pressure health systems of many developed nations had collapsed. India had responded to challenges in supply chains emerging during the pandemic. The Indian approach was not, however, limited to healthcare alone, he said.
India has gone a step ahead and covered wellness too, he said, adding the country has presented before the world a vision of ‘one-earth one health’ for all living beings, whether human, animal or plant.
The prime minister contended that for several decades after Independence, an integrated approach and a long-term vision was missing in the health sector. “We did not limit health to Health Ministry but went for a whole-of-the-Government approach,” he said.
He said his government’s highest priority was to make medical treatment affordable. This approach was behind the provision of medical treatment worth Rs 5 lakh free of cost under the Ayushman Bharat scheme. People benefiting under it have so far saved Rs 80 crore which they would have spent on their treatment.
Similarly, the poor and people from middle classes have saved Rs 20 crores by buying cheaper medicines from Jan Aushadhi kendras, Modi said. This means that citizens of the country had saved Rs 1 lakh crore due to just two schemes, he said. There are about 9,000 Jan Aushadhi shops in the country. The nation will celebrate Jan Aushadhi Day on 7th March.
Referring to the need of a strong health infrastructure, the prime minister said more than 1.5 lakh health centres are being developed in close proximity to homes across the country so that testing centres and first aid are available. He said that facilities for screening serious ailments like diabetes, cancer and heart-related issues will also be available at these centres.
He said critical health infrastructure is being made accessible to small towns and villages under the PM-Ayushman Bharat Health Infrastructure Mission, which is not only giving rise to new hospitals but also creating a new and complete health ecosystem. As a result, the prime minister noted that many opportunities are being created for health entrepreneurs, investors and professionals.
Regarding human resources in the sector, he said that more than 260 new medical colleges have been opened in the last few years. This had doubled medical seats in graduate and postgraduate medical courses as compared to 2014.
The prime minister underlined the emphasis on the nursing field in this year’s Budget. “Opening 157 nursing colleges in the vicinity of the medical colleges is a huge step in the direction of medical human resources. This may be useful in fulfilling global demand, not just domestic needs,” he said.
The prime minister highlighted the role of technology in constantly making medical services accessible and affordable and elaborated on the government’s focus on the implementation of technology in the sector. “We want to give timely healthcare to the citizens through the facility of Digital Health ID. Ten crore people have already benefited by teleconsultation through schemes like e-Sanjivini,” he said. New opportunities are being creaed by 5G in this sector for start-ups.
Drones are bringing revolutionary changes in medicine delivery and testing services. “This is a great opportunity for the entrepreneurs and will give a push to our efforts for universal healthcare,” he said, exhorting the entrepreneurs to avoid the import of any technology. Modi listed the required institutional response in this regard and informed about the new schemes in the medical device sector.
He mentioned Bulk drug parks, medical device parks, more than Rs 30,000 crores on PLI schemes and said that the last few years have witnessed 12-14 per cent growth in medical devices. This market will be reaching Rs 4 lakh crore in coming years, he said.
The prime minister said that India has started work on skilled manpower for future medical technology and high-end manufacturing and research. Courses like biomedical engineering will be run in institutions like IITs. He asked the webinar participants to find ways of industry-academia and government collaboration.
Highlighting the growing confidence of the world in the Indian pharma sector, the prime minister emphasized the need to capitalize on this and work towards protecting this image. He said that a new programme is being launched to boost research and innovation in the pharma sector through centres of excellence which will strengthen the economy as well as create new opportunities for employment.
“The market size of the pharma sector in India is Rs 4 lakh crores today,” the prime minister said. Coordination between the private sector and academia can take the sector beyond Rs 10 lakh crore in market size. He suggested the pharma sectors identify important areas for investment. Highlighting the steps for further research in this sector, Modi said that many new labs by ICMR have been opened up for the research industry.
Modi noted the impact of the government’s efforts on preventive healthcare. He listed Swacch Bharat Abhiyan for cleanliness, Ujjwala Scheme for smoke-related diseases, Jal Jeevan Mission to tackle waterborne diseases and National POSHAN Mission to address anemia and malnutrition.
The prime minister underlined efforts taken by the government for modern medical infrastructure and human resources and said that the new capabilities will not limit health facilities to its citizens, but also aim to make India the world’s most attractive medical tourism destination. Medical tourism is a very large sector in India and is becoming a huge medium for generating employment too, he said.