Saturday, March 16, 2013

Presidents speech on 33rd Convocation of PGIMER, Chandigarh
I am happy to be here at the 33rd Annual Convocation of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research at Chandigarh. The last time that I had the opportunity to attend the Annual Convocation of PGI was in 2008, when I was the Union Minister of External Affairs. I am delighted to be back once again after 5 years, on the Golden Jubilee Anniversary of the foundation of PGI. 
The PGIMER came into existence in 1962 thanks to the wisdom and foresight of Sardar Partap Singh Kairon, the then Chief Minister of Punjab and the hospital was inaugurated by Pandit Nehru.

This Institute was established as a center of excellence to develop postgraduate medical education in as many branches as possible and produce specialists in several disciplines of medicine. The basic idea was that these specialists would spread out across the country to various medical colleges and institutions and in turn, set up a nucleus of excellence in each of these institutions. It is a matter of pride that PGI alumni can be found today in all parts of the country and the institution is known for its comprehensive facilities for teaching, research and patient care. I compliment all those who have been associated with the establishment and growth of this great institution.

PGI’s Mission “Service to the community, care of the needy and research for the good of all” sums up the important role that the Institute is playing in the Health Care Sector in India.

The mission of PGIMER and similar institutes of excellence would remain incomplete unless the interests of the common man is taken care of. It is only when the life of the villager living in the remote districts of India is touched by your research and the most underprivileged child in your ward goes back home satisfied with your care, that you will know that your mission has been truly accomplished.

Good health of its people is the very foundation of a nation. A person who is not healthy is unable to access opportunities for learning, growth and productive work. In India, a number of rights are guaranteed to its citizens but none of these can be utilized or enforced by persons who are sick, enfeebled and spend their entire energy on treatment and medical care. At the national level, according to a WHO study, the estimated economic loss for India due to deaths caused by all the diseases in 2005 was 1.3% of its GDP. With an increase in the number of non-communicable diseases, this loss is apprehended to increase to 5% of GDP by 2015 if it is not checked.

Our medical healthcare system has to be developed to cater to medical requirements of all sections of society, both in rural and urban areas. A good healthcare system would need to be country-specific, and therefore, India would need to look at achieving universal health coverage based on its own perspective and requirements, while bearing in mind the lessons that can be drawn from the experiences of others.

Medicines account for 72% of private expenditure of health. India has taken a major decision on distribution of free generic drugs to patients seeking healthcare in public facilities. This will bring down out-of-pocket expenditure and provide affordable access to medicine, particularly for the poor and disadvantaged. Implementing this requires funds as also efficient management systems. In today`s era technology based initiatives including telemedicine can be employed to broaden the reach of healthcare.

The Government is looking at scaling up expenditure of health from the current level to 2.5% of GDP by 2017 i.e the end of 12th Plan and 3% by 2022 i.e end of 13th Plan. The Government, singularly, cannot be a provider of healthcare. While the aim is to strengthen the public healthcare sector, we should look at ways to encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors in achieving the health goals. All stakeholders have to be a part of the effort to provide universal healthcare. From the pharmacists to the doctors, from industry to drug manufacturers, from medical insurance to management of hospitals and running of primary health centres, all have a role in the success of the health system. The potential of India as centre for medical research and innovation given its academic, scientific, technical and industrial capabilities should be fully explored.

It will be incorrect if we were to look at health coverage only in terms of curative and interventionist approach. Preventive healthcare is equally important particularly in India where the number of those suffering from diabetes and cardio-vascular diseases is on the rise. Our health system, therefore, will need to treat people and, at the same time, advise and guide them about how to deal with and prevent some of these medical conditions. Hygiene and sanitation are basic for preventing diseases. In these efforts, participation at the local level particularly at the village level through Panchayati Raj Institutions can ensure effective implementation.

The transformation of India`s health system to be able to provide universal health coverage is a process that will span a period of time. A major re-engineering process began with National Rural Health Mission, launched in 2005. It sought to extend healthcare services to every village in the country and to strengthen healthcare infrastructure through sub-centres, primary health centres and community health centres. The aim now is to extend the coverage to urban areas also. There should be necessary standards of care observed at every level of healthcare. A network of healthcare centres has to be established. This can be sustained only with adequate number of doctors and other paramedical supporting staff. Merely constructing hospitals is not enough. It needs the human resources to make them functional and effective. Medical colleges, nursing institutions, and training schools for paramedical professions would need to be augmented substantially. Shortage of trained medical personnel can be a major constraint for providing universal healthcare.

Progress in the health sector is key to India`s future prominence in the world. A nation`s productivity depends on the health and well-being of its citizens. Economic growth that does not go hand in hand with reduction in avoidable mortality and ill health is neither sustainable nor desirable.

Provision of universal health care is therefore a matter of faith for the Government. For this, the public health system must be greatly expanded and strengthened across the Nation. We need many more nurses, doctors, paramedics and health workers. We need to decentralize planning and implementation of healthcare to the district and sub-district levels. We need to take health services closer to the homes of the families-even a primary health centre is too far by today`s standard and need. We need out of the box managerial and administrative reforms in the health departments at the state and central level. We need public health professionals to spearhead public health programs. We need to develop effective models of healthcare for the ever-increasing urban population. India`s national health system must be a strong, sensitive and efficient public health system.

I call upon all stakeholders to join hands to build a solid consensus for a historic transformation of India`s health sector in the coming years.

The PGI is a living tribute to the faculty, staff and students who have, over the years, worked selflessly to bring the Institute to its present position of pre-eminence. The PGI must rise to be one of the top medical universities in the world within a specific period of time. This target is ambitious but I am confident the faculty, the students and the staff can together achieve this. We must develop world class centres of excellence focused not only on traditional specialties but also on cross-cutting themes such as infectious diseases, vaccine development and regenerative sciences. I call upon the faculty and scholars of PGI to step forward and become leaders in the world of medicine. The government will support you in this endeavour in every possible way.
I wish all the graduating students and awardees the very best in their future endeavours. I urge you to dedicate yourselves to the service of the nation and your countrymen.

Thank you.

Jai Hind.
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