Thrissur: The country has witnessed the longest polio-free period during the last four years of the UPA government ever since eradication efforts were launched, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has said.
Delivering the keynote address at the first convocation of the Kerala University of Health Sciences (KUHS) here on Saturday, Mr. Azad said ever since the launch of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) by the UPA government over seven years ago, substantial progress had been achieved in the health sector.
“The country has brought down maternal and infant mortality rates. The number of HIV cases has reduced by 57 per cent. Nearly 70,000 beds have been increased in the government health institutions for provision of essential and emergency services,” he said.
The Minister said reforms introduced by the UPA government had transformed the medical sector, whether it was medical education, establishment of new AIIMs, upgrading of State government medical colleges, nursing schools, free entitlements for mothers and children in public health facilities, establishment of sick newborn care units, home-based care services, and mobile medical units.
Mr. Azad noted that the government had strengthened immunisation activities against various diseases. “Hepatitis B vaccine has been included in the universal immunisation programme for the entire county. Pentavalent vaccine was started in eight States.”
“The number of MBBS seats has been increased by 46 per cent and PG seats by 70 per cent in the last four years. During this period, 72 new medical colleges, including six new AIIMS, were established raising the seats from 290 to 362. To give a boost to paramedical education, a National Institute of Paramedical Sciences at Delhi and eight Regional Institutes are being established.”
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was considering proposals for further relaxation in infrastructure requirements for establishment of new medical colleges, formulating guidelines for allowing district hospitals to be used for establishing medical colleges on the PPP mode and compulsory posting of one year for medical graduates at primary health centres and postgraduates at community health centres as part of their internship periods, he said.
The single entrance test, National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), for admission of UG and PG medical courses was another important initiative of the government, the Minister said.
Mr. Azad appreciated Kerala for rapid strides made in the health sector and having indicators such as Mother Mortality Rate (MMR), Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) and Total Fertility Rate (TFR) on a par with developed countries.
It would not have been possible without the progressive outlook and leadership provided by successive State governments, irrespective of party affiliations, the Minister said.
In all, 400 graduates from different categories were conferred the degrees at the function. Pro-chancellor of the KUHS and Health Minister V.S. Sivakumar awarded the degrees.
KUHS Vice-Chancellor K. Mohandas welcomed the gathering.