By Shibika Suresh:
Winston Churchill once said that healthy citizens are the greatest asset any country can have. The need of the hour is that India place the health of its citizens at the centre of its development strategies. Rajasthan has become the first state in India to realise this, and on the occasion of World Health Day on 7th April 2013, the government of Rajasthan introduced the scheme of free essential diagnostic tests in government hospitals all across the state. This is called the ‘Mukhya Mantri Free Diagnosis Scheme’, under which patients in Rajasthan will not have to pay for certain essential diagnostic tests in government hospitals.
The Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, said that the scheme is planned to be executed in three different phases; in the first stage from April 7th, free medical tests would be introduced in government hospitals. 57 types of common essential tests would be available for free at the medical college hospitals whereas district hospitals, sub divisional hospitals and satellite hospitals will offer 44 types of free testing. The Rajasthan government plans to introduce the second phase on 1st July 2013, Doctor’s Day, in which free tests would reach all community health centres who would offer facilities of free services for 28 different types of tests. The third and the final leg of the Free Diagnosis Scheme would be implemented from Independence Day, 15th August 2013. 15 types of tests will be made free at Primary Health Centres (PHCs) and dispensaries.
Rajasthan is emerging as a pioneer state in the country with so many steps and programmes for social security and other sectors. After the Free Medicines Scheme was introduced on October 2, 2011 and has delivered encouraging results, the Mukhya Mantri Free Diagnosis Scheme also promises lakhs of people to be benefited with the same.
According to studies, India’s expenditure on public health is low, even when compared to other developing countries in Asia. In some of India’s poorer, rural areas, quality medical facilities are scarce or non-existent. Sixty years after independence, India remains one of the unhealthiest places on earth. Millions of people still suffer from diseases and ailments that simply no longer exist almost anywhere else on the planet. Almost one in four women who give birth receive no antenatal care. What makes the picture even bleaker is the fact that India’s economic boom has had, so far at least, little impact on health standards. It is, therefore, imperative that all the other states of the country take Rajasthan as an example and develop more and more strategies that focus on improving the health status of the people. The central government should focus on coordination and planning with the states, and on sponsoring major health programmes.
The struggle is not about a patent or two. It is about the health of a nation where a majority of people have no health care. With the free diagnostic scheme, Rajasthan has become the flag-bearer of a healthier future for India; it has become the first state to literally offer the right to healthcare where not only the doctor’s consultations but also medicines and diagnostic tests are being provided for free.