Underlining his government's commitment to reaching the benefits of high-quality healthcare services to the poor and the middle class, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the second campus of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (CNCI) here on Friday.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who also attended the event that was held online, caused a flutter with her remark that she had already inaugurated the complex during the second COVID-19 wave, when the state desperately needed more and more centres to cater to the surge of patients.
A strident critic of Modi, Banerjee said she was attending the event after being invited twice by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandavia, and underscored her government has been following all guidelines issued by the Centre despite differences and "questions raised by the governor" over its decisions.
Dedicating to the nation the 400-bed tertiary cancer care centre built at a cost of Rs 534 crore, Modi told the gathering that India has reached the "historic milestone" of administering 150 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccine during the day.
"Today, over 90 per cent of India's adult population has already got the first dose of Covid vaccine. This reflects the country's sense of self-confidence, self-dependence and self-pride for an achievement that is difficult for even the developed and rich nations," he asserted.
Extolling the Ayushman Bharat scheme, the prime minister said it has become a global benchmark for public healthcare systems with Over 2.60 crore people, including 17 lakh cancer patients, having benefited from it so far.
"This is yet another step towards our national resolve to reach high-quality healthcare services to all our citizens, especially the poor and the middle class," he said talking about the new CNCI campus, which will cater to West Bengal, its eastern neighbours and the remote states of the Northeast.
"There was a time when a poor person either did not think of getting treated for cancer or sold his house and land for meeting the expenses. The poor and the middle class got anxious and lost heart at the sheer thought of having got cancer. We took determined steps to pull cancer patients out of their worries," he said.
Modi said the 50,000 Jan Aushadhi Kendras were dispensing medicines, including 50 cancer drugs, across the country at subsidised prices. Amrit Pharmacies are also selling costly cancer medicines at affordable prices, he said.
The prime minister said by regulating the prices of 500 drugs the government ensured the patients, particularly the poor, saved Rs 3,000 crore.
Regulating the prices of key medicines and implants helped common people save huge money, he said, adding reducing the price of coronory stents alone resulted in a saving of Rs 4,500 crore for heart patients. Under the Prime Minister National Dialysis Programme, 12 lakh people got free of cost treatment and saved over Rs 520 crore, he said.
"If we consider the benefits patients reaped from these and other programmes under Ayushman Bharat, ordinary people saved anywhere between Rs 50,000 crore and Rs 60,000 crore," he said.
Responding to Mamata Banerjee's suggestion for increasing seats in medical colleges, Modi said the country had 90,000 undergraduate and postgraduate seats before he took over as the prime minister in 2014. He said 60,000 seats were added in medical colleges in the last seven years. "We had just six AIIMS in 2014 and today we have a strong network of 22 AIIMS across the country," he asserted.
Efforts are on to set up a medical college in each district, 19 State Cancer Institutes and 20 Tertiary Cancer Centres, he said.
"We are going to produce more doctors over the next 10 years than we did in the last 70 years," he asserted.
Health and Wellness Centres are being set up in villages while promoting preventive healthcare through Yoga, Ayurved, Universal Sanitation, and the tap water scheme that will reach every household, the prime minister said.