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Around 2,300 patients availed free COVID treatment in hospitals under Ayushman Bharat: Official

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Around 2,300 patients have availed treatment for COVID-19 free of cost in various hospitals while over 3,000 people have been tested for the infection in the last one and half months under the Ayushman Bharat health insurance scheme, officials said on Thursday.

A call centre at the National Health Authority (NHA), which is the agency responsible for implementing the Ayushman Bharat-Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojna (AB-PMJAY), is also being used as a COVID-19 help centre and more than 600 to 700 dedicated agents are answering calls from citizens, they said.

The NHA has also made calls to disseminate information on a precaution advisory to beneficiaries of the scheme who are at a higher risk of contracting the novel coronavirus. These beneficiaries included those above 60 years of age and have recently received treatment under the PMJAY or are people who have co-morbidities.

The testing and treatment for COVID-19 was made available free of cost for Ayushman Bharat beneficiaries at private laboratories and empanelled hospitals, the NHA said on April 4.

Dr Indu Bhushan, CEO of the AB- PMJAY and the National Health Authority (NHA), said around 10,04,2416 people have availed treatment worth over Rs 13,412 crore for free in hospitals across the country under the scheme since its launch in September 2018.

Around 2,300 patients have availed free treatment for COVID-19 in various hospitals while over 3,000 people have been tested for the novel coronavirus in the last one and half months under the health scheme, Bhushan said.

On the occasion of the scheme crossing the mark of one crore treatments, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday inaugurated the first edition of the Arogya Dhara, a series of webinars created as an open platform for discussion on topical issues of public health.

"Providing one crore treatments to patients from the country's poorest households since its launch in less than two years ago is a milestone achievement for the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY scheme, Vardhan said.

"These treatments worth Rs 13,412 crore have been provided through a growing network of 21,565 public and private empanelled hospitals. The Ayushman Bharat will continue be a trailblazer with an all-encompassing humanitarian approach, to deal with various health-related challenges that will confront us in the months and years ahead," he said.

The health minister said the scheme is providing affordable healthcare in the form of tertiary hospital treatment to the poor and the vulnerable through a health cover of Rs 5 lakh per family per year.

"Its aim is to ensure financial risk protection to more than 10.74 crore poorest, most vulnerable families in the country and is a step forward towards achievement of universal health coverage in India," he said.

The central government is making persistent efforts to expand testing and make treatment of COVID-19 available for free for all 53 crore beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY, further strengthening the resolve, scope and capability to move towards universal health coverage.

We are marking this milestone of 1 crore treatment under AB-PMJAY at a time when the whole country is reeling under the COVID-19 pandemic. We have utilised this period to leverage our IT systems and network of private sector stakeholders to support the government's preparedness and response in the form of managing the national COVID-19 helpline 1075 by conducting thousands of outbound calls to coronavirus infected positive patients and their families," Bhushan said.

"We have also further strengthened our network of hospitals and service capabilities to ensure continued service delivery to non-COVID patients under the scheme," he said.

The Union health minister also launched an 'Ask Ayushman' chat bot on WhatsApp. It is an AI-enabled assistant that provides information on various aspects of the AB-PMJAY scheme such as its benefits, features, process of making an e-card, locating the nearest empanelled hospital, sharing feedback and the process of lodging a grievance.

One of the key features of the chat bot is that it is able to comprehend and respond in Hindi and English languages and it also provides text-to-speech feature for the users and can be universally used on all major social media platforms.

The Union minister also launched a Hospital Ranking Dashboard which is a significant step to rank empanelled hospitals on the basis of beneficiaries' feedback.

The ranking will help NHA to take evidence based decision making for enhancing the quality measures and indicators of healthcare delivery across all empanelled facilities to further improve the beneficiaries experience, a statement said.

Vardhan also released a Special edition of the AB-PMJAY beneficiary e-card exhibiting the milestone of one crore hospital admissions. Apart from the above, Hindi version of the Ayushman Bharat PMJAY website was also launched which shall enable to effectively connect with the masses and to empower them with access to right information through a user-friendly medium.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Thu, May 21 2020. 20:37 IST