How True are PM Modi's Claims on India's Health Infrastructure?
While inaugurating the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital in Mohali, PM said that more work has been done in the health sector in the last eight years than in 70 years before that
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier this week on August 24th, addressed a gathering at the inauguration of the Homi Bhabha Cancer Hospital and Research Centre in Mohali, Punjab. In his speech, he mentioned that the country is in need of a healthcare system that caters to even the most marginalised sections of the society.
"A good healthcare system does not just mean constructing four walls… which is why, in the last eight years, holistic healthcare has been one of the top priorities of the government," the PM told the attendees.
He also made certain claims about medical colleges, health centres, doctors and paramedical staff in the country. As per FactChecker's analysis of official data, two claims were true, two needed additional context, and one was misleading.
Claim #1: Over 1.50 lakh Health and Wellness Centres are being set up in the country, of which 1.25 lakh have already started functioning. In Punjab, 3,000 health and wellness centres are giving their services.
A total of 1,20,112 'Ayushman Bharat Health and Wellness Centres' (AB-HWCs) were functional in the country by the end of June 2022, as per information provided by the health ministry in Lok Sabha.
The ministry also gave a state-wise break-up of the HWCs. According to the list, Punjab had 2,934 operational HWCs.
Under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, States and UTs are supported to transform the existing 1.5 lakh Sub Health Centres (SHCs) and Primary Health Centres (PHCs) across the country into AB-HWCs by December, 2022.
The HWC at the SHC level is to be staffed by an appropriately trained Primary Health Care team, composed of 'Multi-Purpose Workers', ASHAs, and led by a Mid-Level Health Provider (MLHP). Together they will also deliver an expanded range of services, such as care in pregnancy and childbirth, neonatal health care, reproductive health care services, palliative healthcare, and basic management of mental health ailments, among others.
For PHCs to be strengthened to HWCs, support training of the PHC staff, necessary IT infrastructure and upgradation of diagnostic support to complement the expanded ranges of services is to be provided.
Claim #2: From 7 AIIMS in the country, the tally has increased to 21
The government has approved the setting up of 22 new All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY), according to a Lok Sabha response given by the health ministry in July 2022.
However, in the country, only seven AIIMS are fully functional. This includes the first AIIMS established in Delhi in 1956, and six AIIMS under PMSSY which were sanctioned during the Vajpayee-led NDA govt and completed during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime. They are located at Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Patna, Raipur and Rishikesh.
Here's a look at the current status of AIIMS institutes in India at various levels of completion.
Also, more than half (51%) of both the faculty posts as well as non-faculty posts are still vacant in the new AIIMS institutes.
Claim #3: Before 2014, there were less than 400 medical colleges in the country. In the past eight years, more than 200 medical colleges have been established.
Fact: Needs Context
According to a Lok Sabha response given in February 2014, there were 387 medical colleges in India at that time. The number has gone up to 612, as per the latest information provided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This means 225 new medical colleges have come up in the country in the past eight years.
Out of the 225 new colleges, 37% (84) are privately owned and the rest (141) are government colleges.
Furthermore, the 2014 response mentions that the UPA govt had already approved the upgradation of 58 district hospitals with the bed strength of 200 or more in underserved areas, into medical colleges. So, it is possible that some of these previously approved colleges were completed during the NDA regime.
Under the current NDA government, 157 new medical colleges have been approved under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme for establishment of new medical colleges by upgrading district or referral hospitals. Out of these, 72 are currently functional.
Claim #4: The government has given recognition to 5 lakh AYUSH doctors on the same standing as allopathic doctors, which has improved the doctor-population ratio in India.
Fact: Needs Context
In an earlier story, experts told FactChecker that one cannot confidently include AYUSH doctors in the doctor-population ratio in India alongside allopathic doctors. This is because the ratio is globally applicable for comparative assessment, and AYUSH is an indigenous system of medicine.
Also, the proportion of doctors is skewed across rural-urban and public-private healthcare settings. So it would be more useful to look at disaggregated data instead of a blanket nationwide ratio, the experts said.
A similar claim has been made several times in the Parliament, which says that India's doctor-population ratio (1:834) is better than the World Health Organisation's (WHO) recommendation (1:1000), when one includes the 5.65 lakh AYUSH doctors in India to the equation.
Claim #5: 3.5 crore beneficiaries have availed free treatment under the Ayushman Bharat scheme.
Data on the 'Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana' (AB-PMJAY) dashboard indicates that up to 3.53 crore hospital admissions have taken place through the scheme, with 8.74 lakh admissions in the past 30 days.
Tamil Nadu tops the list both in the number of free hospital admissions availed and the number of hospitals empanelled under the scheme.
AB-PMJAY provides health assurance of up to Rs 5 Lakh per family annually for secondary and tertiary healthcare hospitalisations. The beneficiary families under the scheme have been identified from the Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) of 2011 on the basis of select deprivation and occupational criteria, such as households without shelter or living on alms, manual scavenger families, primitive tribal groups, legally released bonded labour, among others.
FactChecker called Rohit Yadav, Joint Secretary to the Prime Minister, for clarification. His office told FactChecker that they would reach out to us later. We have also written to the PM's office for their comment, but had not received a response by the time of publishing this article. We shall update the response here if and when we receive one.