Focus on developing new vaccines, rural healthcare: Azad (Lead)

May 29th, 2009 - 7:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Anbumani Ramadoss New Delhi, May 29 (IANS) The health ministry would focus on developing new vaccines to fight the new diseases cropping up and also work towards providing better healthcare to the poor in rural areas, Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said soon after taking charge Friday.
“India is a big developing country and why should we depend on western countries for vaccines? We have to take a proactive initiative to make new vaccines to fight new diseases resurfacing in the past few years like swine flu, bird flu, dengue and many others,” Azad told reporters after assuming office at Nirman Bhawan.

“God forbid, if a major disease outbreak happens in India, it will have a major impact because of the large population and we don’t have better infrastructure to deal with it,” he said.

He said he is the only politician who got afflicted with dengue twice. “It is a challenge worldwide to introduce new vaccines for diseases,” said Azad, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister.

He also said his aim would be to strengthen the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched in 2005 to strengthen rural health infrastructure.

“Through the National Rural Health Mission initiative we plan to reach the people living in rural areas. My priority is to implement the scheme in letter and spirit,” he said.

He said every six months he would review the progress in each state and twice a year visit the state and hold review meetings with chief ministers and health ministers. “This would enable me to review how the schemes under NRHM are being implemented,” he added.

Azad said his other priority is to introduce the long-awaited National Urban Health Mission (NUHM).

“My priority would be to get cabinet approval for it and launch it as soon as possible,” he said.

The NUHM was announced by the previous health minister Anbumani Ramadoss. The scheme aims to provide insurance cover to the millions who live in urban slums to give them basic medical facilities.

Azad said the ministry would also try to speed up the setting up of six institutes on the lines of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The government had announced the plan in 2003, but it was given a final go ahead in 2005.

Under the scheme, such institutes would be set up in Patna, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Jodhpur, Raipur and Rishikesh. Azad also said the ministry would upgrade 13 other medical institutes in the country.

He said after the six AIIMS like institutes come up, the government plans to start two more such institutes and also upgrade six medical institutes.

On his predecessor Ramadoss’ repeated attempts to target former AIIMS director P. Venugopal, Azad said: “In healthcare the main supremacy is of the institute. And it should not be diluted. Individuals are not important, they come and go. One should not dilute the authority of the institute. AIIMS is a premier super speciality institute,” he added.

Dinesh Trivedi, who took charge as minister of state for health and family welfare, was also present.

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