Jun 02, 2011
The health ministry has announced free delivery and treatment for pregnant women and newborns to protect the poor from high out-of-pocket medical expenses. The scheme is an effort to tackle the nation’s high maternal and infant mortality rates.
Mewat (Haryana): Concerned over the high maternal and infant mortality rate in the country, the Centre on Wednesday launched an ambitious national programme to provide free services to pregnant women for deliveries and neo-natal care, if needed, up to a month after birth.
The facility will be available to all women in government health institutions in both rural and urban settings, and is expected to benefit over one crore women annually.
Launching the Janani-Shishu Suraksha Karyakram (Mother-Child Protection Programme), a Central scheme sponsored by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare from Mewat — a predominantly Muslim area in Haryana here, Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance said the UPA government had always tried to give women their dues, constitutionally and legally.
"If 50 per cent of the population lags behind, a Nation cannot progress," she said, while admitting that the government was aware of the difficulties faced by women in proving their talent due to social barriers.
"It is our duty to realise the talent of our women and take measures for their progress," Ms. Gandhi said, while describing as unfortunate the high maternal and infant mortality rate in the country. She said the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM), launched in 2005, had improved the overall healthcare facilities in the urban settings, the new programme would focus on pregnant and lactating mothers and their newborns.
"Even blood will be provided free of cost under the scheme," she said.
Speaking of the UPA's policy of inclusive growth, Ms. Gandhi said Dalits, minorities and economically backward sections of society had equally benefited from the government schemes.
Save money burden
The scheme has been launched in view of the difficulty being faced by pregnant women and parents of sick newborns along with high out-of-pocket expenses incurred by them on delivery and treatment. The scheme, drafted after all States approved of it, will provide free services to pregnant women, including normal deliveries and caesarean operations and treatment to sick newborns (up to 30 days after birth) in government hospitals, community health centres and primary health centres.
The present initiative supplements the cash assistance given to pregnant women under the Janani Suraksha Yojana and is aimed to mitigate the burden of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the families.
The free facilities will include delivery including C-section, drugs and consumables, diagnostics, special diet during stay in the health institution, free provision of blood, exemption from user charges of all kinds, transport to and back from health facility after 48 hours and transport between facilities in case of referral. A child will also be entitled to free treatment and transportation up to a month after birth.
Speaking on the occasion, Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said more than Rs. 1,100 crore had been provided for drugs, diet and ambulances under the National Rural Health Mission during 2011-12.
He said 67,000 women in India die every year due to pregnancy related complications and 9 lakh children died within the first four weeks of life. These deaths can be prevented, he added.