“We got the approval from the union government on Saturday,” said state health minister Suresh Shetty, adding that recruitment of additional medical staff and ASHAs (accredited social health activists) will begin on Monday itself.
Public health specialist Dr Anant Phadke said the setting up of the NUHM was a welcome move. “The focus seems to be on the government spending on healthcare and not on roping in the private sector,” he said. Expert Ravi Duggal however, said, the timing of the launch suggested it was a poll-related sop. “It is no doubt a start, but the government shouldn’t forget about the mission a few months down the line,” he said.
NUHM is the urban equivalent of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), which was launched in 2005. “Progress has been made under the NRHM in rural areas for strengthening the public healthcare system, but the urban poor still lack access to essential primary healthcare services. They often have to depend on the unorganized and, at times, unqualified private providers, leading to heavy out-of-pocket expenses. Realizing this gap in the public health system, the government of India launched the NUHM to supplement the NRHM,” said the union government’s announcement of the Maharashtra NUHM.
The state NUHM will work in 6,000-odd slums identified across 95 disctrict. Around 6,000 ASHAs will be needed to cover the 2 crore slum-dwellers identified in the state, said health officials.
State health minister Shetty said the civic corporation in Mumbai will now work more closely with the state public health department. “In Mumbai, we want to focus on further bringing down infant mortality and maternal mortality rates. As there is a provision under the NUHM to give free medicines to the poor, patients in the BMC- and state-run hospitals will benefit,” he added.