A game-changer of health services for the poor

Health takes precedence over all other necessities of life and providing free medical care to people is the greatest measure of human well-being.

In order to provide this necessary welfare measure to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the SEHAT program was launched in convergence with Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (AB-PMJAY).

AB-PMJAY was launched by the central government in 2018 to provide free health services to economically weaker regions of the country. In Jammu and Kashmir, the benefits of the scheme have been extended to all persons in the Union Territory under the SEHAT scheme. The scheme provides health insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh per family per year to all residents of approved hospitals. The plan covers up to three days of pre-hospitalization and fifteen days of post-hospitalization expenses, including diagnostics and medication.

Bashir Ahmad, a carpenter from the old town of Baramulla, suffered a heart attack and was transferred to Territory Care Hospital in Srinagar where doctors suggested surgery. “The cost of the procedure cost us dearly,” Bashir’s wife said. She added that if they hadn’t gotten the gold card, they would have been in a lot of trouble. “The golden card saved my husband’s life,” she said.

Not only Bashir, but several other patients have benefited from the golden card. People from the weaker strata of society who cannot afford better health care and treatment in public or private health facilities have benefited from the gold card.

A patient, Manzoor Ahmad, from Baramulla district, recently underwent open heart surgery at SKIMS Srinagar. This operation was only possible thanks to the benefits provided by the plan.

Health being a fundamental human right, it is an important indicator for all humans to live a better quality life and J&K is taking the lead in this direction. According to data released by the National Health Agency (NHA), J&K is among the top five states/UTs with the most Ayushman cards generated in the last six months. According to the data, J&K has generated 19 Lakh Ayushman cards in the last six months, making it the top performing state/UT.

The J&K administration is making constant efforts to improve the health infrastructure here and in order to provide better health services under the SEHAT program, several new private hospitals have been established by the National Health Agency (SHA) to extend better health services to residents. This addition of health institutes to J&K is a step towards expanding and building a strong network of hospitals and health services.

In addition, the SHA Board recently approved the migration to the National Health Authority issued health benefits package, in which the rates of various packages have been improved. This will suffice to meet the long-standing demand of private hospitals for improved flat rates and will enhance the sustainability of the private sector.

Additionally, to trace the benefits of the scheme to the last potential beneficiary, SHA has embarked on a unique “Gaon Gaon Ayushman” initiative. This decision aims to provide Golden Cards to the entire population as soon as possible. To ensure that all eligible beneficiaries are registered under the program, camps are set up for on-site beneficiary registration through a network of over 8,000 Shared Service Centers (CSCs). The Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) is installed in the villages to ensure 100% of enrollment and outreach activities at the local level in association with PRI representatives and ASHA workers. The SHA also trained and held the hand of these CSCs.

To reach the target population, campaigns in terms of setting up palisades in the constituted hospitals, camps through ASHA workers and other field workers were organized to publicize the benefits of the program with the active participation of religious institutions.

At J&K, the importance of the plan can be well measured by those who have suffered in the past due to inaccessibility to medical care due to economic conditions. In this regard, the sincere efforts of the government must be applauded for making strenuous efforts to cover most of the population of UT, accompanied by commendable work by the field staff associated with the administration to reach places away from J&K. Jammu and Kashmir, with many demographic disadvantages and many inaccessible areas, has devised innovative practices to reach the last mile.

For the successful implementation of the program, J&K has been awarded several times. The SKOCH Order of Merit Award for Innovative Implementation of Ayushman Bharat in the month of February 2019 was awarded to J&K. SHA, J&K also received the 1st prize in Arogya Manthan’s Learning and Space Sharing event organized by NHA. J&K has also been praised by the National Health Authority for its remarkable achievements, with the Home Secretary enjoying himself on the floor of Parliament.

About Evelyn C. Heim

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