The NDA government has started the process of establishing 17 new All India Institutes of Medical Sciences (AIIMSes) and 20 cancer institutes in the country, Union Health Minister J P Nadda was quoted as saying by PTI on Sunday, Feb. 21.

While laying the foundation of a super-speciality block under Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) at Guwahati Medical College, Nadda said once these new AIIMSes are fully functional, more than 16,300 additional beds — 960 beds in each institution — will be available. The government has already started the process to establish 10 new AIIMSes in addition to the six already established in their previous term.

A 710-bed National Cancer Institute in Jhajjar and a second campus of Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Kolkata are also being established. And another 50 Tertiary Cancer Care Centres are also being set up.

Nadda also said super-speciality blocks are being set up in 70 medical colleges, and 58 district hospitals are being upgraded to medical colleges. "And in the next three to four years, we intend to work towards comprehensive model for non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and a massive awareness drive is being planned for this," he said.

Another issue addressed at the event was the disparity in availability of healthcare facilities in rural and urban areas and different states. "With nearly 58 percent of all healthcare expenditure being met through 'out-of-pocket expenditure' and nearly 4 crore people getting impoverished on account of healthcare expenditure, providing affordable healthcare of quality to all is one of the most important concerns before us," the minister said.

Nadda believes the rising burden of NCDs is another area of concern and there is need to focus on strengthening the primary healthcare system. "At the same time, providing adequate facilities for secondary and tertiary healthcare is required to reduce the burden on citizens," Nadda said.

Nadda also said a new AIIMS has been announced for Assam by the government and work on the project will start very soon. The government has also decided to upgrade the district hospitals at Nagaon, North Lakhimpur and Dubri, in Assam, to the status of medical college.  Rs 189 crore each will be sanctioned for these colleges, and the first instalment of Rs 22 crore has already been released to the state government. Moreover, since May 2014, more than Rs 1,567 crore has been released to Assam under the National Health Mission.